Exercise before pregnancy: Yummy Mummies

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Smiling woman posing on exercise mat
Smiling woman posing on exercise mat
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Ok, so you’re not going to do a Demi and pose nude on the cover of Vanity Fair with a baby bump. Nonetheless, there are plenty of good reasons to shape up with exercise before pregnancy. It’s the best way to ensure you feel fab and fit when your pregnancy hormones start raging. It also means you’re more likely to get pregnant, and have a healthy baby when you do.

Need help getting pregnant? Shape up with exercise!

Thinking you’ll wait until the last minute and start exercising in early pregnancy? If you want the greatest chance of getting pregnant, the best pregnancy outcomes and the healthiest baby, think again. Unless advised otherwise by your doctor, performing moderate intensity exercise before and during pregnancy is not only safe but is also associated with many health benefits for you and your baby.

Exercise increases your chance of getting pregnant, which is not always as simple as it sounds. About 1 in 6 couples in Australia have difficulty conceiving, despite doing the necessary business between the sheets for one year or more. Women who are obese (have a BMI >29 kg/m2) and those who do not exercise are more likely to have trouble getting pregnant.

If you’re having sex regularly but your menstrual bleeding continues like clockwork, there are a range of fertility treatment options that might help you get pregnant (e.g. in vitro fertilisation). But before you try expensive fertility treatments, try adding some exercise. If you’re carrying extra kilos (BMI >25kg/m2), exercise and as little as 5-10% weight loss will increase your fertility. You don’t have to run a marathon – just 30 minutes per day – a brisk walk in the park or a bit of sweating in the gym might be just the help you need to get pregnant.

checkmark Healthy body weight (ideally, 25kg/m². For women with a history of obesity, reducing weight to a maximum of 35kg/m² is essential for a healthy pregnancy)
checkmark Regular exercise regime in place including:
  • Low intensity warm up exercises to prepare the body and reduce the risk of injury
  • At least 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise (e.g. brisk walking) per day
  • Cool down stretches to prevent injury

Exercise during pregnancy: It’s easier if you exercise before getting pregnant

Even if getting pregnant is not an issue for you, if you don’t exercise before your baby starts growing, you’re less likely to exercise during pregnancy. Not only is it harder to get into exercise when your hormones start raging and your baby bump starts protruding, if you wait until the first trimester of pregnancy to get started, your baby will have already completed much of its major development in your womb, without the benefits of exercise.

So before you throw out your contraception, drag out your gym shoes and start training. It will be a big weight off your shoulders (and possibly your thighs) if you develop an exercise routine before you get pregnant. You’ll also be more likely to continue exercising until late in pregnancy if you get into the swing of a regular fitness regime before you start baking your bun.

Don’t forget to keep up exercise during pregnancy

Don’t forget, you’ll need to stick with your exercises during all stages of pregnancy. The routine of exercise before pregnancy will make it much easier to continue. Easier doesn’t mean easy though, and you may find you need a little inspiration every now and then.

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Knowing your exercise is helping your unborn baby to grow strong and healthy is probably just the inspiration you need. But if you need a little more, think about the benefits you’re getting – exercise doesn’t just help your body look great, it also helps you feel great.

Body image: Exercise helps women cope with pregnancy weight gain

Exercising beforehand also means you aren’t as likely to gain a truckload of weight during the pregnancy – a bonus in anyone’s handbook. Weight gain during pregnancy is normal and healthy, but gaining too much weight is unhealthy for you and your baby. You’ll also be less likely to lose weight after pregnancy if you don’t exercise beforehand.

Exercising before conception has also been shown to help women cope emotionally with their pregnancy and the body changes which accompany it. As the pregnancy goes on, your body will change and grow rapidly. It might wobble about or feel strange. Your new baby bulk might even cause you to feel a bit down when you can’t fit into an increasing proportion of your wardrobe.

That’s another good reason to exercise. Feeling fit in the body also means feeling fit in your mind, and vice versa. Research shows that exercising before pregnancy has a positive effect on mood – the decrease in exercise which occurs for many women during pregnancy is associated with deteriorating moods. In addition, women who exercise during pregnancy are less likely to be anxious or feel fatigued. And let’s face it, every pregnant woman could do with a little less anxiety and fatigue!

Want to avoid pregnancy problems?

Medically, women who exercise before pregnancy have a lower risk of pregnancy complications such as gestational diabetes and preeclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy). You’ll also start life as a mum with a lower risk of conditions associated with sedentary lifestyle and weight gain, including obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus. And your pre-pregnancy exercise efforts will also benefit your baby – they will be less likely to develop diabetes and obesity when they grow up as a result of your efforts. Now that is starting good parenting habits early!

Preparing your pregnancy exercise program

Now that you know the benefits of pre-pregnancy exercise, you’re probably keen to get your training boots on. But if you haven’t exercised regularly for a while, go to your doctor first for a quick check-up and to plan your exercise regime and protect against injury. This is especially important if you’re heavy, or have health problems (e.g. a heart condition) which may make some exercises dangerous.

If you’re already fit and fabulous, continuing with your usual exercise regime will ensure you’re in great shape when you get pregnant. However, you may want to talk to your doctor about changes you can make to your exercise program once you are pregnant such as changes to your diet, water consumption or other ways you can prepare for pregnancy.

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checkmark Check-up with your doctor to assess for health conditions which might create exercise risks (e.g. heart problems, unusually shaped feet)
checkmark Advice from your doctor about hydration and nutrition whilst exercising
checkmark Advice from your doctor about special footwear or other protective clothing that will reduce the risk of injury during exercise
checkmark Advice from your doctor about exercises to do and avoid once you conceive
checkmark Plan your pregnancy exercise regime

Demi ‘less is’ Moore

As you can see, Demi had the right idea that being pregnant is a beautiful thing. It may mean a little bit of work at the gym or some brisk walks on the beach, but it will be worth it. When the pregnancy test shows a little smiley face, you’ll know you’re well prepared. You’ll feel great, enjoy your ‘glow’ and give your baby the best start in life. And if you do want to strip down for some saucy pregnant photos, you’ll feel like a million bucks.

Download the preconception exercise checklist to take to your doctor


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Date Created: February 13, 2012 Date Modified: January 30, 2015