Exercise and Sport in PregnancyChantell saw me for her postnatal visit this week. Chantell is a first-time mum who is also a group fitness instructor. Prior to her pregnancy, she took lots of group fitness classes at the gym, with her favourite being combat classes.

When she saw me for her first antenatal visit she asked me if she could continue the classes while she is pregnant. I said at that stage of her pregnancy there was no pregnancy reason why she could not continue her classes, and if some reason became apparent during the pregnancy that meant she could not continue her classes then I would advise her.

So she continued to lead the classes. She enjoyed this very much and maintained an excellent level of fitness in her pregnancy. At 26 weeks pregnant she sent me photos of herself out the front of the class. See adjacent.

She told me at her postnatal visit it was about at that stage of the pregnancy (26 weeks) that mothers in her class told her she should not be doing the classes. They said it was too dangerous for her and her baby.  So she stopped – not because I told her too but because the gym mums told her to.

At her postnatal visit, she said she was upset because she had listened to them and not asked my advice regarding whether she could continue her classes. I advised Chantell that I was happy for her to continue as long as she could cope and there were no relevant pregnancy complications.

I remember years ago I had a patient named Diane who also was a gym personal trainer. In her fourth pregnancy, she took group fitness classes right up to the end of her uncomplicated pregnancy. One morning at 39 weeks she woke up with some uterine irritability. She had a class scheduled for that morning. So she went to the gym and took the class. In the afternoon of the same day she went to the hospital in labour and delivered her baby.

Exercise in pregnancy is a good idea

To be physically fit in pregnancy helps you cope with the physical and emotional demands of pregnancy and prepares you for labour and birth.

There is information on this topic on my website in the article Exercise and Activity.

You can continue gym attendance and a sport you like playing as long as you can cope, as long as there are no pregnancy contraindications, and as long as the sporting activity is not potentially dangerous.

It is not a good idea to take out a new gym membership or start a new sporting activity after your pregnancy is diagnosed as your body won’t cope as well as because of pregnancy changes.  If you are not normally very active, I suggest as an alternative you do walking to get fit or maintain a reasonable level of fitness.

Your body changes when you are pregnant

Remember that when you are pregnant your centre of gravity changes, there is more strain on your back, you fatigue more easily, you can find it harder to focus and concentrate, you feel heavier and are more uncomfortable. All these pregnancy changes mean you are more likely to have an accident and hurt yourself with exercise and sport in pregnancy.

Years ago I had a patient who was an avid horse rider. I said to her to be careful as there was increased risk of her falling off her horse as she was pregnant. She laughed at me and replied she never falls off a horse and that she is a very good horse rider. At about 28 weeks pregnancy she attended for an antenatal visit and confessed she had fallen off her horse!

Team sports

I often get asked “can I continue my team sport in pregnancy?”. As a team member, you don’t want to let the team down and so you may do things that you don’t feel up to doing and you may continue when your body is telling you to stop. Also, other players on your team, knowing you are pregnant, are more likely to want to ‘protect you’. If the opposing team members know you are pregnant, they are more likely to want to avoid you as they don’t want to cause you or your baby harm.

So the game activity and outcome may be adversely impacted and you and your baby are at extra risk of being harmed.

Dangerous sports

There are certain sports that are an absolute no in pregnancy. Such sports are usually considered dangerous when not pregnant. There are many.  Most contact sports are in this category. It is a matter of using common sense. Even though you may be very passionate about a sporting activity, it is a matter of asking yourself – “what is the worst that can happen and is it worth the risk?”.

Injury in pregnancy can have considerable implications

Sporting injury is associated with increased risk of miscarriage, placental abruption, spontaneous rupture of membranes, uterine injury and preterm labour.

In pregnancy, the ability to do appropriate x-rays and scans is considerably limited as such imaging is associated with a degree of risk to your baby. Sometimes an injury is such that an operation and general anaesthetic are needed in your management. More risk. And the treatment can have an impact on your pregnancy. You may end up hobbling around on crutches in pregnancy and the injury and treatment could limit your birth position options, etc. So be very careful!

 Also see Exercise and Activity

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