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Sport during pregnancy: the ultimate 7 do's and don'ts

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f you have finally become pregnant and have wanted to have children for some time, you naturally want to do everything right during pregnancy and not jeopardise your baby. But what about sport? Can/should you do sport at all as a pregnant woman, and if so, which sports are suitable and which should you avoid? We'll take a closer look at this and much more today.

Sport during pregnancy? Definitely!

To answer the most important question right at the beginning - yes, you can and SHOULD exercise even when you are pregnant, as exercise has a positive effect on your health and that of your baby. If you get enough exercise during your PregnancyThis not only stimulates your heart, lungs and metabolism, but can also reduce complications during labour. With a good level of fitness, you will also be better equipped to cope with the exertions of childbirth and it can also help prevent you from gaining too much weight. Of course, you shouldn't forget the psychological aspect, as exercise releases endorphins in the body and thus ensures an increased sense of well-being.

Sport in the Pregnancy also has many other health benefits. Your immune system is strengthened by exercise, which increases protection against infections for you and your unborn baby. If you are active, you are also less likely to experience circulatory or digestive problems and you can reduce your risk of haemorrhoids, varicose veins, thrombosis and muscle and calf cramps. Exercise also strengthens the pelvic floor, which can not only prevent incontinence later on, but can also help you during the postnatal recovery phase. In addition, pregnant women who exercise for half an hour three to four times a week are less likely to develop high blood pressure and gestational diabetes.

By the way, if you have ever heard that exercise during pregnancy can cause premature births, we can reassure you that this is a myth.

Listen to your body. Always!

The most important thing when it comes to training and sports planning during pregnancy is to listen to your body. If there are any risk factors or pre-existing conditions, it is essential to discuss your training plans with your gynaecologist*.

Unfortunately, for example, you may suffer more from symptoms such as nausea or tiredness in the first trimester of your pregnancy. In this case, it naturally makes sense to reduce the amount of sport you do at first. After early pregnancy, i.e. in the second trimester, you may feel fitter and more motivated to exercise again, whereas any kind of physical activity in the last trimester of pregnancy can be extremely strenuous due to the increased body weight. So as I said: listen to your body.

How active you can be during your pregnancy naturally also depends on how active you were beforehand. If you were already doing a lot of sport beforehand, it will be easier for you to train at a higher level than if you only slowly start exercising now during your pregnancy. So if you are only now starting to exercise regularly, it is advisable not to overexert yourself and to opt for gentler alternatives such as Nordic walking instead of running.

But even if you were very sporty before, you will notice that your usual training intensity becomes too strenuous at a certain point, as physical performance decreases in pregnant women. Overexertion, competitive sports or training to exhaustion are generally not recommended during pregnancy, so take care of yourself and don't forget that your body is already doing its best work ever, namely carrying new life.

Competitive athletes can do adapted basic endurance training during pregnancy, as this only slightly reduces endurance performance and the previous level is quickly reached again after the birth. Maximum strength training, on the other hand, should be avoided as this could increase the pressure in the abdominal cavity, which could possibly lead to an impairment of the blood supply to the uterus.

What happens to your body during pregnancy

Before we take a closer look at suitable and unsuitable sports in the Pregnancy let's take a look at the biological changes in preparation for this.

The fact that your body weight increases by 15 to 25 per cent during pregnancy is certainly not new information for you. This also results in higher forces acting on your joints.

During pregnancy, the hormones oestrogen and relaxin are also increasingly released, which contribute to easier stretching of tendons and ligaments. This is cleverly designed by nature, as the pelvic ring also has to loosen during the birth process so that the baby can pass through the birth canal more easily.

For sport during pregnancy, however, this means that the risk of injury is increased due to overstretching. The enlargement of the uterus and the increase in the volume of the breasts also results in a forward shift of the body's centre of gravity, which can lead to balance problems and subsequently to falls, especially at the end of pregnancy.

As the pregnancy progresses, the risk of injury to the foetus also increases. If it is still well protected behind the symphysis (pubic symphysis) in the first trimester, blunt trauma can have a direct effect on the foetus in the 2nd and 3rd trimester and trigger premature labour or placental abruption.

Suitable vs. unsuitable sports

But let's get to the point and look at which sports you can do without hesitation. Endurance sports that are easy on the joints, where there is no increased risk of injury/fall and the load is in the medium range (i.e. between 60 and 70 per cent of your maximum training load) are particularly suitable.

Simply translated, this means that you should not get completely out of breath during exercise. To evaluate this, you can also use the so-called "talk test": if you can still talk effortlessly during exercise, your training load is in the medium range.

The same applies to strength training: you should avoid too much effort. It is best to stay in the strength endurance range for your strength training and concentrate on low intensity/load with a higher number of repetitions. As we have already mentioned, you should refrain from maximum strength training so as not to unnecessarily increase the pressure in the abdominal area.

Suitable sports are:

- Nordic walking

- Hiking (below 2000m altitude)

- Swimming, aqua gymnastics, aqua jogging

- Moderate strength training on equipment or with free weights as well as exercises for stabilisation and mobilisation.

- Yoga, Pilates (for example, there are always yoga classes especially for pregnant women)

- Pregnancy gymnastics (you can start this from around the middle of your pregnancy and helps to prepare for labour)

Conditionally suitable sports are:

- Running (only if you are already experienced. Newcomers should favour Nordic walking during pregnancy. Even experienced runners should not run longer and more often than 3 times 45 minutes per week and only at a moderate pace. The vibrations put too much strain on the pelvic floor, as well as the spine, tendons and joints, which are already under a lot of strain during pregnancy).

- Abdominal muscle training. As long as your belly is not bulging, you can continue to do your usual abdominal muscle training. From the 20th week of pregnancy, you should refrain from training the straight abdominal muscles, as this can cause the left and right abdominal muscles to diverge and create a gap (rectus diastasis). So if you do abdominal muscle training at all, then only do exercises for the oblique abdominal muscles.

Not suitable sports are:

- Sprints, interval training and anything that involves extreme acceleration or extreme braking. The rapid rotation around the longitudinal axis of the body in alternating directions causes the child to rotate with it. However, as the foetus in the amniotic fluid rotates like a spinning top due to its inert mass, there is a risk of umbilical cord entanglement.

- Intensive stretching exercises. You should only stretch very carefully during pregnancy, as your ligaments and joints are more elastic, increasing the risk of overstretching/injury.

- Diving. Holding your breath also cuts off the baby's oxygen supply. Diving with a compressed air cylinder is completely prohibited as there is a risk of pulmonary embolism in the unborn child.

- Full contact sports such as various martial arts

- Team sports such as football, basketball, American football, etc.

- Sports with an increased risk of falling and injury (horse riding, climbing, alpine skiing, mountain biking, water skiing, surfing, parachuting, bungee jumping, etc.).

- Maximum strength training and weightlifting

We hope we have been able to answer all your questions about exercise during pregnancy in this blog post. If you would like to know anything else or would like to share your own experiences with exercise during pregnancy with us, please write to us on our Instagram channel.

Sources:

Pregnancy and sport (15.12.2023)

Rudolf-Müller (15 December 2023), Sport during pregnancy

Korsten-Reck et al (15.12.2023), Pregnancy and sport

Tina is the Marketing Manager at femSense and firmly believes that great things happen when women support and empower each other, because in this "men's-world" there clearly needs to be more sisterhood. She lives in harmony with her superpower aka her cycle and writes about all the topics that matter.

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