Many women underestimate the significance of exercise during pregnancy, health experts have warned.
St John of God Health Care obstetrician and gynaecologist Joo Teoh said there was a common misconception about the relevance of exercise in pregnancy.
“Some understand the importance of exercise, but they do not know what to do,” he said.
Dr Teoh said a balance between exercise and diet could prevent short-term and long-term implications for the mother and baby.
Exercising helped pregnant mums control weight and blood sugar levels from rising drastically.
“Having more muscle strength and support during pregnancy helps withstand the physical stress of carrying the baby and the fluid,” he said.
“However, the type of exercise is also important because you don’t want to physically stress too much during pregnancy.
“Pregnant mums are encouraged to practise non-body contact sports such as walking, swimming, light jogging and stationary cycling.”
As well as exercising, Dr Teoh said physiotherapy was crucial.
“It is important to perform pelvic floor physical therapy to prevent complications after giving birth,” he said.
Body Logic Physiotherapy specialist continence and women’s health physiotherapist Judith Thompson said women who practised pelvic floor exercises during pregnancy had improved continence after delivery.
It was vital to exercise the pelvic floor muscles throughout pregnancy for enhanced recovery after giving birth, she said.
“Being physically more active is good for the pelvic floor muscles, but doing a lot of high impact activities can put more stress on those muscles,” she said.
Dr Thompson’s research found 40 per cent of women with symptoms of incontinence and prolapse performed pelvic floor exercises incorrectly, which could make things worse.
“You’re more at risk of having leakages or prolapse after giving birth if you do not practise the correct pelvic floor exercises during pregnancy,” she said.
“It is best to see a pelvic health physiotherapist and have your individual risk assessed.”
According to Dr Teoh, exercise helped women maintain muscle strength and support during pregnancy.
“Yoga is one of the best exercises for pregnant women,” he said.
“It is very appropriate for pregnancy, especially the yoga courses catered for pregnant mums.
“Yoga affects psychological health from all aspects.
“Prenatal courses can alleviate mood disorders through meditation and peer support groups.”
Barefoot Babes Yoga prenatal yoga instructor Hana Priest said there were many perks of prenatal yoga.
“Yoga in general can make a huge difference to all the mental stuff,” Mrs Priest said.
“Prenatal yoga is all about understanding, respecting, nurturing and connecting with your pregnant body.
“The key part of prenatal yoga is to exercise the pelvic floor muscles to keep them strong.”
Mrs Priest said pregnant mums were still capable of exercising but they needed to modify the way they did it.
“Pregnancy is not the time to sit there and wrap yourself in a cotton wool,” she said.
“Pregnant women experience more aches and pains they never had before, and thus attending those classes allows them to find stretches and movements that can help ease unfamiliar discomfort.
“Women need to learn how to mentally push past the point where they want to give up due to physical discomfort.”
The breathing and endurance exercises were the two most beneficial aspects of prenatal yoga in terms of aiding childbirth, according to Mrs Priest.
“We also do things like active birthing to help women find comfortable positions and be more relaxed, focused and empowered in labour,” she said.
“The yoga positions they learn in class actively help them in labour.”
Dr Teoh said it was equally important to prepare for pregnancy.
“Pregnancy is not the time to start to get fit,” he said.
“If you start with no strength, it will gradually get worse.”
Dr Teoh advised pregnant mums to seek help from health professionals.