ARTICLE – THIS WILL MAKE YOU WANT TO EXERCISE DURING PREGNANCY
What enables some women to sail through pregnancy, whilst others struggle?
The absence of some common and unpleasant conditions could certainly help mum to feel a whole lot healthier and happier.
You may not hear it talked about before pregnancy, but you will probably experience it during pregnancy. The apparent baby bump in the first trimester may have you asking 'have I popped out already?!' But at this stage it's usually less baby and more air and constipation induced bloating. High levels of iron are imperative for good energy levels in mum, growth in bub and a healthy pregnancy all round. This is why supplementation is usually advised by Doctors. However, many iron supplements can cause annoying constipation. On top of this, there is an increasing competition for space between your growing baby and digestive organs that not even the stretching of your tummy can fully accommodate. Moved around and squished up, it's not surprising that your gut is less able to function at its best.
So how does pregnancy exercise help that sandwich you had for lunch move a little more efficiently through your stomach and intestines? Increased blood flow to your digestive organs aids digestion and the activation of your torso muscles as you work out gently massages your inner organs squeezing the food onwards and out. Preventing constipation is also really important for your pelvic floor which is put under too much pressure and stretched when you strain in the bathroom.
A common complaint of pregnancy is backache. A growing baby bump and enlarging breasts means a change in posture and centre of gravity and of course you are carrying an increased load. Many joints are looser due to the hormone relaxin, many muscles are tighter and under increased pressure. These imbalances cause achy bits in both the upper and lower back. Think about it, would you normally walk around with a bowling ball strapped to your waist? And have you ever before suddenly grown 2 bra sizes?
Prenatal exercise can strengthen the muscles that support your back and hips, lessening the occurrence of back ache as you sit, stand and move around throughout the day. Your core muscles are like a corset that when working properly, hug and support your spine. Your glutes (that's your buttock muscles) work as a team with your core and pelvic floor muscles to provide pelvic stability. This helps prevent nagging lower back pain caused by the laxity in the hip joints. Training these muscles can even help you get a better night sleep by making turning over in bed a little bit easier.
You can also specifically work on the muscles of your upper back to offset the rounding shoulder position of your changing posture. It's a good idea to get ahead of the game during pregnancy as the position of mum's body whilst she is feeding, settling and pushing a stroller all exacerbate these aches.
Type 2 diabetes is one of the fastest growing diseases in our society and if you develop gestational diabetes (that means diabetes during pregnancy) you have a much higher chance of developing type two diabetes later in life – and much earlier. Insulin resistance is when the body produces more and more of the hormone insulin in an attempt to break down, use or store the 'sugars' (mostly the carbohydrate component but also protein) in the food you eat. Diabetes occurs when the amount of insulin you are producing can no longer keep up with the job of controlling glucose and your blood sugar levels rise.
The placenta and genetic predisposition do play a part in making your body insulin resistant and causing gestational diabetes. However, even moderate regular pregnancy exercise can change this response, promoting not only a healthy pregnancy, but a healthier mum after birth. Exercise requires energy, so working out helps to burn, instead of store, excess sugars eaten, controlling blood sugar levels and preventing too much weight gain. Prenatal exercise also increases your muscles sensitivity to insulin helping it keep up, a bit like a good computer program might assist you with your work tasks.
Even though there are many, many more benefits to prenatal fitness. Isn't alleviating constipation, escaping back pain and preventing gestational diabetes a good enough reason – or three, to make you want to exercise during pregnancy.