Sport during pregnancy

The benefits of sport and advice on selecting exercises during pregnancy

Sport and Pregnancy - the expert advice

It is common knowledge that regular exercise improves physical and mental well-being at all ages and in all phases of life, including during pregnancy and after giving birth. Thanks to both greater motivation and more frequent medical check-ups, pregnancy can be an opportunity to maintain or improve your lifestyle and adopt healthy habits (such as eating healthy and not smoking), taking care of yourself and of the baby in your womb. 

Benefits of exercise during pregnancy

Observational studies, randomised studies and a recent review of the literature have shown that practising sport during pregnancy can:

  • Reduce the risk of gestational diabetes 

  • Reduce excessive weight gain

  • Guarantee a lower incidence of gestational hypertension or pre-eclampsia 

  • Reduce the incidence of premature birth, of caesarean sections

  • Reduce the probability of low weight at birth and pregnancy-related complications 

  • Improve recovery and reduce the risk of postpartum depression

  • Reduce the frequency of lumbar pain and sciatica in pregnancy.

What sports should be practised during pregnancy?

Exercising during pregnancy poses minimal risks, but a visit to your physician is necessary for an in-depth obstetric evaluation and to rule out contraindications and complications. In addition, it is important for the safety of both mother and child that the proposed exercise schedule be personalised on the basis of the attitude and athletic preparation of each individual patient and on the basis of the physical and anatomical changes that occur during pregnancy, such as the increased weight and the shifting of the centre of gravity, as well as changes to the lungs and cardiovascular system.

Inactive and sedentary women should follow a gradual exercise schedule when pregnant. Women who were already active before pregnancy can practice high-intensity activities such as running or aerobic exercises. Professional athletes can continue their training sessions under the close supervision of their gynaecologist and their athletic trainer, monitoring changes in weight and diet and the types of exercises. The most recent American guidelines recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week (aerobic exercise for 30-90 minutes 3-4 times per week is not associated with risks of pre-term pregnancy) during pregnancy and after giving birth.

Types of activities and sports during pregnancy

Here are the preferable and recommended sports activities for pregnant women:

  • Walking

  • Exercise bike

  • Aerobics

  • Dancing

  • Hydrotherapy, aerobic exercises in water, swimming

  • Resistance exercises (such as using weights or elastic bands)

  • Stretching.

Here's some general advice for exercising safely: 

  • Continuous hydration

  • A balanced, varied and healthy diet

  • Adequate clothing and footwear

  • Avoiding hot and poorly ventilated environments

  • Avoiding a supine position, on your back, for extended periods, especially in the final trimester

 

What to avoid during pregnancy and warning signals 

Sports that must absolutely be avoided throughout the entire pregnancy are contact sports, due to the risk of abdominal trauma and loss of balance, and scuba diving, due to the risk of forming bubbles in the foetal and placental circulatory system.

Let's see what warning signs indicate that exercise should be interrupted during pregnancy:

  • Vaginal bleeding

  • Abdominal pain

  • Painful and regular contractions

  • Loss of amniotic fluid

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Dizziness

  • Headaches

  • Chest pain

  • Calf pain

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