If you're not used to exercising, then pregnancy is a good opportunity to start, but go easy. Heart and lungs are already working at increased levels, which makes pregnancy itself a kind of aerobic exercise. Be aware of this and always 'listen to your body'.
Check your pulse regularly during exercise and slow down if it reaches 140 beats per minute. It's much better to exercise for 20 minutes every other day than three hours just on Saturdays
Why you need to be careful
Risks to you
- Pregnancy softens your joints and ligaments, so there is an increased risk of sprains, twists and back injuries.
- Sports involving quick, jerky movement, such as squash, tennis and fast jogging, may cause problems.
- As your baby grows your centre of gravity changes and your balance may be affected. Falls may therefore be more likely.
Risks to your baby
- Impacts and falls may cause damage.
- Avoid downhill skiing, water-skiing, diving, climbing, all contact sports and fierce team games, for example, netball and hockey.
- If you get very hot, your baby will also get hot. Overheating early in pregnancy may possibly affect your baby's neural (nerve) development.
- Avoid saunas, steam baths and hot tubs. Stop exercising if you get very hot - rather than just warm. Drink plenty of water before, during and after exercise to replace lost fluids.
- Sustained, vigorous exercise may affect the blood supply to your baby by diverting blood away from the uterus to the leg muscles. If you get very breathless, the amount of oxygen in your blood is reduced, which may affect your baby's growth.
- Avoid exercising to the point of exhaustion. Take a rest every 15 minutes.
Ways to keep fit
Regular walking, swimming and yoga are all ideal. In addition, yoga teaches breathing and relaxation techniques, but certain positions are not advised so make sure that your teacher knows that you are pregnant.
For further information on ways to stay fit safely during pregnancy, including exercises that will help you prepare for birth, ask your midwife, who may know of antenatal exercise classes in your area.
Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause physical and mental birth defects (known as Foetal Alcohol Syndrome FAS). Each year, it is thought that more than 40,000 babies are born with some degree of alcohol related damage. Although many women are aware that heavy drinking during pregnancy can cause birth defects, many do not realize that moderate - or even light - drinking also may harm the foetus.
New research suggests even moderate alcohol consumption makes a baby 3Â½ times more likely to suffer from abnormal spasms in the womb. It now appears that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy as even one glass a week can result in abnormal hyperactive behaviour, as a result of alcohol slowing the formation of the central nervous system. FAS children suffer neurological damage, learning disabilities and other problems, such as ADHD & behavioural problems.
It is recommended that pregnant women do not drink any alcohol throughout their pregnancy and while nursing. In addition, because women often do not know they are pregnant for a few months, women who may be pregnant or those who are attempting to become pregnant should abstain from alcohol.
Pregnacare is working with the charity FASaware to highlight Foetal Alcohol Syndrome and the dangers of drinking during pregnancy.
Smoking during pregnancy is arguably the cause of the greatest number of preventable health problems at birth and in early childhood. According to Government estimates, one in four pregnant women smoke and up to 400 babies a year are stillborn, or die about the time of birth, as a result.
A third of all women smokers quit when they get pregnant - stopping smoking is the best gift you can give your unborn baby. This is because tobacco:
- stunts the baby's growth by reducing oxygen levels and narrowing the blood vessels in the placenta;
- makes the heart beat unhealthily fast;
- fills the amniotic fluid with cancer-causing chemicals;
- increases the risk of cot death;
- reduces the chance of the baby having a normal, healthy, lively childhood.
Sex during pregnancy is quite safe for the baby, unless your doctor advises you otherwise. Whether you feel more keen on sex or totally off it, there's no cause for concern.
Because your body doesn't change that much in the first trimester, sex can pretty much continue as it has in the past. If you're having a normal pregnancy, sex is considered safe during all stages of pregnancy. Many expectant mothers find that their desire for sex fluctuates during certain stages in the pregnancy. Also, many women find that sex becomes uncomfortable as their bodies get larger.
Your baby is fully protected by the amniotic sac (a thin-walled bag that holds the foetus and surrounding fluid) and the strong muscles of the uterus. There's also a thick mucus plug that seals the cervix and helps guard against infection. The penis does not come into contact with the foetus during sex. It is therefore safe to continue having sex throughout the whole of pregnancy.
Please note that any health tips or advice provided on this site are not intended as, and should not be regarded as a substitute for medical advice from your doctor or health professional.