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Exercise in your first trimester

Exercise in your first trimester

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How much and what type of exercise is best when you’re newly pregnant? Rosie Brogan reports.

New mums are often in two minds when it comes to exercise: you know it delivers all sorts of benefits – but does it place your bub at risk?

The most current thinking is to get tailored advice; there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to rules for a healthy pregnancy. But there are some general brushstrokes that serve as a great place to start.

For starters – you’re right. Exercise is fabulous for your body, and as scientists are increasingly discovering – for your headspace, too. When you’re pregnant, exercise helps you manage your weight, improve your mood and prevent gestational diabetes.

It also lifts your energy, can strengthen your back muscles – helping you manage back pain as your baby grows. It relieves stress, improves sleep, and enticingly, helps your body bounce back from pregnancy once your baby’s born. 

Start with the head

In your first trimester, begin with shifting the way you think about, and measure, exercise. As a pregnant woman, forget about judging your workout by your heart rate, for instance.

“Due to the increase in resting heart rate and decrease in maximal heart rate during pregnancy, it is not recommended using target heart rate to determine intensity of exercise,” explains Sports Medicine Australia (SMA). “In healthy pregnant women the intensity of exercise can be monitored by the mother’s rating of perceived exertion.” In other words, go by what you feel.

And if you weren’t super active before you fell pregnant, don’t consider strenuous exercise now. Also, make sure if you’re attending group classes that you tell your instructor you’re expecting – and ensure he or she is qualified. 

Use your breath as a guide

As a general rule pregnant women should be able to chat while they’re working out, says the National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom. If you run out of breath to talk – you’re working too hard.

How much exercise can I do?

If you weren’t active before you fell pregnant, start with 15 minutes of continuous exercise, three times a week. Then gradually build it up to four 30-minute sessions a week, then 30 mins most days of the week is recommended. Again, use your body as a guide.

What type of exercise can I do?

SMA says if you were playing a group sport for a long time before you fell pregnant (it cites netball as an example), it’s reasonable to continue this through your first trimester.

Again, it’s a very subjective decision, so weigh up your options. SMA also says it’s okay to take up an exercise program in your first semester – even if you weren’t in a fitness groove beforehand.

One excellent tip is to do exercises that work out your pelvic floor muscles, the earlier the better. You’re going to need them! “The pelvic floor muscles are weakened during pregnancy, so it’s extremely important to begin conditioning [these] from the start of pregnancy. These exercises… can be prescribed by a physiotherapist,” says SMA.

Read more on 'The best exercise you can do when you're pregnant'

Here are some more fitness ideas:

  • Walking
  • Swimming
  • Cycling
  • Water-based exercise
  • Yoga
  • Stretching
  • Dancing
  • Pilates

What types should I avoid?

Any form that makes you change direction quickly. Ditch any sport that carries a risk you’ll fall. The hormones that flood your body when you’re pregnant, including the hormone relaxin (great name, huh?), loosen ligaments, and this increases your risk of joint injuries and strains.

If you feel unwell or experience any unusual symptoms while you are exercising you should stop and contact your healthcare professional.

References available on request