Pregnancy is one of the most magical experiences of your entire life, yet it will also be one of the most testing and physically demanding. When pregnant, people often think that all forms of exercise and physical exertion are no-go’s, but this isn’t true. While it is very important to be safe at all times during your pregnancy, exercise is not only allowed, it is recommended. Some forms of physical exercise are obviously off-limits, but others can prove hugely beneficial. Exercise during pregnancy helps keep body fat at a safe level, it helps to improve the mother’s psychological frame of mind, and it keeps baby and mother healthy as a whole. Working out when pregnant will not only help to improve your frame of mind, and you and your unborn baby’s health, it will also help prepare you for labour and childbirth. Before starting any exercise and fitness regime when pregnant however, it’s important to know what you can and cannot do. To make life easier, here’s a look at several do’s and don’ts of exercise during pregnancy.

Do consult your doctor first 

First and foremost, before you even consider starting an exercise and fitness regime when pregnant, you should always consult your doctor or a healthcare practitioner first. It doesn’t matter how safe you think it is, safety always comes first when pregnant, not only for your unborn child, but also for you as well. Your doctor will be able to advise you on whether you are indeed clear to exercise and will be able to offer help on which activities to perform. They will also be able to put you in contact with trainers and experts that specialize in fitness during pregnancy – helping to ensure that baby and mother are in the safest possible hands.

Don’t hold your breath during exercise

When it comes to exercise during pregnancy, low-impact, slow and steady activities such as yoga are ideal. However, they aren’t without their risks. You see, when working out and performing Yoga or similar activities, a lot of poses require you to hold your breath for a prolonged period of time. This however, can be dangerous when pregnant. It can limit oxygen supplies to some degree, plus it has also been found to place additional pressure on the pelvic floor, which can be harmful to the unborn child. Therefore, avoid exercises and poses that require you to hold your breath, and instead focus on slowing your breathing down.

Don’t lie on your back

A lot of people make the mistake of thinking that it is safe to lay down on their backs when exercising while pregnant. They figure that, as they obviously can’t lay on their fronts, that laying on their backs is safe. It’s not. In the early stages of your pregnancy, you can perform certain exercises while on your back, but once you reach 16 weeks and beyond, this is simply not an option anymore. You see, by now your child will be much larger and the additional weight will place extra pressure on your spine, and on the primary blood vessel that carries oxygen to the heart. This blood vessel is known as the Vena Cava and it is essential that you ensure it functions safely and efficiently at all times. There are of course, plenty of exercises and activities you can perform once you reach the 16-week period, it just means that laying on your back and training is no longer an option.

Do stay well hydrated

When exercising, it’s important to stay hydrated anyways, but when exercising during pregnancy, hydration is more important than ever. Water helps to carry nutrients from your blood to the baby and can also help to prevent other common pregnancy-related conditions such as constipation or hemorrhoids. When we exercise, even if we barely sweat, we still lose important electrolytes and fluids, which will need replacing. Otherwise we run the risk of suffering from dehydration, which can cause headache, muscle cramps, and potentially more serious complications during pregnancy. Start sipping water before exercising and make sure to drink during, and after you have finished working out as well.

Don’t lift heavy weights

Ordinarily, resistance training is very beneficial for men and women, as it helps to build lean muscle, boost the metabolism, strengthen the joints, and burn fat. When pregnant however, the heavy weights should be left well alone. In the early stages of your pregnancy, you can lift very light weights during certain exercises, as long as you execute perfect form and stick with light weights and moderate rep ranges. During the third trimester however, weights shouldn’t really be used. You see, because of fluctuations in your hormones, your body will be a lot more malleable during this period of time, and lifting weights can place a lot more stress on your tendons, ligaments, and joints, meaning you will be a lot more susceptible to injuries.

Do make sure you warm up and cool down

Before exercising, it’s vital that you set 10 minutes aside to gently warm up and perform some basic and safe stretches. This helps to raise your core body temperature and increase muscle elasticity, which means you will be less likely to suffer an injury during exercise. After finishing your workout, again, set 10 minutes aside to perform a very low intensity cool down routine to help get your heart rate, blood pressure, and core body temperature, regulated and back down to what they normally are.

Do consider swimming

When pregnant, as you are carrying an entire person inside you, as well as holding water and much more besides, you will put a great deal more weight on and will be much heavier. This can be very painful on your joints, especially your knees and ankles. Because of this, even low-impact exercises such as gentle walking, can be painful. Instead, try swimming or performing aqua aerobics or aqua fitness in general. In the water, there is no pressure being placed on your joints, so you experience no pain when exercising, and can still get a great session in. water-based fitness is ideal because it provides cardiovascular benefits, as well as resistance benefits from the water itself. Many gyms and fitness centres offer aqua fitness classes for expecting mothers, so see which options are available to you in your area.