Exercise During Pregnancy - Rachel Kwan

Women today get mixed messages about exercising in pregnancy. Whilst there's a much greater variety of classes aimed specifically at pregnant women, there's also a lot of women who are scared to exercise for fear of doing something to hurt their growing baby.

'Dont lift that! Here, let me get that for you.'

'Should you be doing that?'

'Are you sure you want to come for a walk? Maybe you should just rest.'

These are all questions I was asked as a pregnant woman. Prior to pregnancy, I was playing sport, running several times a week and doing kettlebell strength training multiple times a week.

Once I was pregnant, I gave away the competitive sport pretty quickly. Once I hit 13 weeks, I slowed down on the running a notch or two also. But I was able to keep doing kettlebell and some Krav Maga training for a good portion of my pregnancy. In fact I was still using a kettlebell up until a week before my baby was born. Why did I feel compelled to exercise so much in pregnancy?

1 it helped my back pain and made my joints feel better. I especially loved the way I felt when I was submerged in water- swimming became my favourite activity towards the end of my pregnancy!

2 Exercise helped me to keep my blood sugars under control. Exercise improves the body's response to insulin, therefore improving your blood sugars. Women with gestational diabetes can use this as a secret weapon to regulate their blood sugars and avoid needing insulin. In my situation, as a woman with type 1 diabetes, exercise is a part of my normal lifestyle that helps my body to respond effectively to the insulin I pump into it daily.

3 Emotions. Gotta love them. Pregnancy makes everything go a little haywire, and I am a big fan of exercise to help stabilise mood outside of pregnancy, so I also found it helpful during my pregnancy.

4 Not losing the strength and fitness level I had pre pregnancy was a motivator for me to get out the door. Even though the intensity of my exercise diminished, it felt good knowing that I would have a baby and still be able to run or jog if I wanted to.

So there's a few thoughts from me on how I felt exercise helped me through my pregnancy. I know, however, that not all women have the luxury of exercise in pregnancy. Whether due to a shortened cervix, threatened premature labour, severe back pain or joint hyper flexibility there are some women out there who have been advised by medical staff to avoid certain or all forms of exercise indefinitely. Therefore it is always good to discuss with your doctor before commencing an exercise program!

Next week I will write some thoughts about how to know if your exercise is at a safe level for pregnancy, and danger/ warning signs to look out for.