Just because you're getting close to your due date doesn't mean you can't still enjoy exercise.
Welcome to your last trimester, where your tummy is growing larger and your baby gets heavier by the week. Hormonal changes have also increased the likelihood of water retention, so you may notice your arms and legs swell. You're feeling tired and breathless and no one will blame you if all you want to do is lie down and watch TV. However, despite experiencing fatigue more easily, you're encouraged to continue exercising — especially if you've done so throughout your pregnancy so far. Here's why!
I'm so tired. Why should I still exercise?
Exercise helps you to prepare to meet the physical demands of labour and birth. A good workout can be energising yet relaxing! It also reduces the chance of constipation and helps you better manage your weight. Exercise also helps control your blood glucose levels and blood pressure. Just to be safe, please seek medical advice from your obstetrician before starting any new exercise programme.
OK, I'll get off the couch. So what exercises should I be doing?
Generally, if you have not been exercising regularly before pregnancy, start with an easy 15 minutes of activity a day. Gradually increase that to 30 minutes a day, five to seven days a week. These exercises can include walking or stair climbing — just be aware that your new body will require some balancing.
Pelvic floor exercises are a great way to maintain the strength of pelvic floor muscles to prevent stress urinary incontinence and in future, organ prolapse. Here's how you do it: Imagine that you're trying to stop yourself from passing wind and trying to stop your flow of urine mid-stream at the same time. The feeling is one of "squeeze and lift", closing and drawing up the front and back passages. Hold this position for a few seconds, then release. Do at least eight contractions three times a day.
What difficulties should I watch out for?
Hormonal and postural changes may cause you to develop back pain during this trimester. Back exercises like pelvic tilts can help to alleviate these discomforts, as well as those mentioned above.
Are there exercises I should avoid?
Avoid contact and competitive sports, and activities that involve jumping, jarring motions or which demand rapid changes of direction, like tennis and squash. Remember to listen to your body, and don't overexert yourself!
By Catherine CHUA Bee Hong Senior Principal Physiotherapist, Elizabeth CHAN Jiahui Principal Physiotherapist, KK Women's and Children's Hospital
The New Art and Science of Pregnancy and Childbirth 2008, World Scientific
Healthy Start for your Pregnancy 2012, Health Promotion Board Singapore
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