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Sport during pregnancy: 6 tips for mothers-to-be

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Exercising during pregnancy can have many benefits for mother and child: The risk of gestational diabetes is reduced. Back pain occurs less frequently.

In addition, exercise during pregnancy supports healthy weight development for mother and baby. This was the result of a study by the NIDDK (National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases).

On the other hand, it can be a challenge, especially for women who do little other exercise, to start exercising only during pregnancy and to become athletic with a baby bump. In addition, not every type of sport is suitable for pregnant women.

What to consider during pregnancy - six important aspects:

1. Choose safe sports

Regardless of the pregnancy, health status, training level, age and personal factors play a role in the question of which sports are suitable for expectant mothers and to what extent. Basically, you should choose sports with a low risk of injury. These include swimming, walking, yoga or moderate strength training. Exercise in the fresh air can also prevent fatigue, one of the most common pregnancy complaints.

On the other hand, martial arts and ball sports, skiing or horseback riding are unsuitable, as they can cause bumps and falls and abrupt changes in movement.

2. Exercise gently

Pregnancy is not the right time for top athletic performance and intensive training - but it doesn't have to be a reason for a healthy woman to take it easy. Instead, train in a relaxed manner without getting short of breath. Make sure you feel comfortable and don't overexert yourself.

One way to check your limits is with a heart rate monitor. In its coaching programme for pregnant women, the German Sport University Cologne recommends different maximum heart rates for sport during pregnancy depending on age:

  • Under 20s: maximum 155 beats/minute
  • 20-29 year olds: 135-150 beats/minute
  • 30- to 39-year-olds: 130-145 beats/minute
  • From 40 years: maximum 140 beats/minute

3. Adjust the training volume

Exercise during pregnancy can have an impact on the duration of labour. According to a study published in the European Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Biology in 2018, pregnant women who exercised moderately in the aerobic zone for one hour three times a week had a significantly shorter birth: it was almost one hour faster than in the comparison group without exercise. However, those who did not exercise before pregnancy should start at a lower level.

Trained women, however, do not have to limit themselves to this. As long as there is no overstraining, up to seven times a week for one hour of sport is also considered safe, according to the working group "Sport and Pregnancy" of the Sport University Cologne. According to this, you should not get out of breath and be able to hold a conversation at the same time.

The benefits of exercise during pregnancy extend beyond the duration of the birth. Expectant mothers can thus also prevent gestational diabetes, emphasises the German Medical Journal:

A structured exercise programme can reduce the risk of gestational diabetes by up to 50 percent. Just 140 minutes of exercise per week reduce the risk by 25 percent. In addition, sport reduced the rate of overweight children in the normal collective by 32-59 percent.

4. Drink enough water

Pregnant women have significantly more blood in their bodies than non-pregnant women. Because the skin is supplied with more blood, they sweat more than usual and lose fluids in the process. This is exacerbated by exercise. That's why it's especially important for pregnant women to drink plenty of water during exercise.

It is best to drink before you feel thirsty and take regular breaks from drinking. If pregnant women drink too little, they often feel dizzy more quickly than usual or get headaches.

5. Ask the doctor

What is "advisable" may be different for an untrained woman than for one who exercises regularly. Recommendations may also differ for high-risk pregnancies or certain pre-existing conditions, among others. Therefore, be sure to talk to your doctor before deciding on an exercise programme during pregnancy.

6. Respect your own body

The last and most important point when exercising during pregnancy: Listen to your belly! No one else but you can ultimately feel what something is like for you.

Don't do any exercise that feels uncomfortable or even causes you pain. Don't exercise when you are sick. If you want a break, take it.

Listen to your body's signals and be good to yourself and your Mini-Me.



Sources and further references:

· NIDDK: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/weight-management/healthy-eating-physical-activity-for-life/health-tips-for-pregnant-women#activityPregnant

· European Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Biology: Exercise during pregnancy is associated with a shorter duration of labor. A randomized clinical trial - European Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Biology (ejog.org)

· Deutsches Ärzteblatt: https://www.aerzteblatt.de/archiv/228485/Koerperliche-Aktivitaet-in-der-Schwangerschaft

· Online-Coaching der Deutschen Sporthochschule Köln: https://www.dshs-koeln.de/sport-und-schwangerschaft/coaching/coaching/