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Everything you need to know about exercising while pregnant

Mom to be? Obstetritian and gynaecologist Dr Judy Kluge explains why you should keep moving and dispels common myths about exercise and pregnancy.

Gone are the days when women with child had to confine themselves to bed rest. The idea exercise causes miscarriage, poor fetal growth, injury or premature delivery in women withuncomplicated pregnancies isn’t proven, says the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (ACOG).

For most women, the benefits of exercising before, during and after pregnancy far outweigh the risks.

Eating for two

“Don’t gain more than an average of 12kg whilst pregnant, and if you’re overweight or obese, you certainly shouldn’t put on any more weight,” warns Dr Judy Kluge.

Here’s why. According to the World Health Orgnisation (WHO), physical inactivity is the fourth-leading risk factor for early mortality worldwide.

In pregnancy, carrying extra kilograms, as a result, increases your risk of numerous complications. It may prevent your body from producing insulin effectively, causing high blood sugar levels (gestational diabetes mellitus). The fetus converts excess blood sugar to fat and, after birth, experiences low blood pressure in its sudden absence.

A 2017 randomised controlled trial found 300 overweight or obese women with uncomplicated pregnancies who cycled for 30 minutes a day, three times per week, in their first trimester significantly reduced their risk.

Dr Kluge adds that exercise decreases the risk of blood clots in the legs and lungs associated with bed rest, which can be dangerous.

Up to 60% of pregnant women suffer from lower back pain due to weight gain and a shift in the centre of gravity, causing the region to curve inward more than it should, according to

The Department of Anesthesiology at Yale University School of Medicine.

Strengthening your abdominal and back muscles could minimise this risk by helping to stabilise the back and pelvis.

Women who exercise during the third trimester of their pregnancy are also more likely to have babies weighing 200g to 400g less – but not growth-restricted or unhealthy – than their sedentary counterparts, found Researchers at the University of North Colorado.

“We’re having bigger babies than before,” Dr Kluge continues. “It’s not uncommon for women to deliver 4kg babies. But heavier babies increase the chance of caesarean delivery,

which is more dangerous for the mom than vaginal delivery and has long-term consequences.”

Who needs endorphins?

“One in 10 women suffer from postpartum depression, seldom talked about and often untreated because you’re you’re expected to be happy when you have a baby,” says Dr Kluge.

“But an activity such as walking in nature could improve your mood and sleep.”

Read the full article in the March/April issue of Glamour SA, now available in-stores or online, here.

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