Swimming tones most muscles and improves stamina. Hormonal changes in the body lead to loose ligaments, especially in the hips and pelvis. But due to the buoyancy of water, it is difficult to strain muscles and joints while swimming—making a couple laps in the pool a great way for moms-to-be to work out.
Michele Washington, an Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA) accredited personal trainer and Pilates instructor at the LA Fitness gym, often teaches water exercise courses. "[Swimming] is a very comfortable exercise during pregnancy," she says. "Participants use a water noodle, also known as a woggle, to ease back strain." Dr. Blott agrees that swimming is a "particularly good exercise, again because it is comfortable and also because it works a lot of different muscle groups."
In her book Natural Remedies for Morning Sickness and Other Pregnancy Problems, Denise Tiran, a lecturer in complementary therapy and midwifery at the University of Greenwich, England, says, "Research appears to indicate that water exercises during pregnancy increase the flow of blood to the uterus and also help reduce fluid retention." She adds that the temperature of the pool should be warm but not too hot, and that a woman's own temperature should not exceed 102 degrees Fahrenheit. Any time a pregnant woman feels overheated, she should get out of the pool immediately.
Yoga and Pilates increase suppleness and reduce tension. They also teach women to control breathing and can aid concentration during labor. Many yoga and Pilates teachers offer special pregnancy classes. If you are attending a regular class, it is important to tell your instructor that you are pregnant and to avoid lying flat on your back, as that decreases the blood flow to your uterus.
What to Avoid
According to Dr. Stoppard, the following exercises should be avoided during pregnancy:
- Jogging is especially hard on the breasts and jarring for the back, spine, pelvis, hips, and knees. Washington agrees: "Any type of impact exercise will be uncomfortable during pregnancy and will put strain on the lumbar spine, and may even cause contractions if there is a lot of impact or bouncing."
- Skiing and horseback riding should also be avoided in the second and third trimesters because balance may be affected as the center of gravity shifts. Plus, falling is a possibility and a danger for both you and your unborn baby.