Exercising during pregnancy: should I be really exercising while pregnant?

We all know that exercising and being physically active plays an important role in our overall wellbeing. That is nothing new, however, some women may think that pregnancy is not the best time to start being active and start exercise, especially if you haven’t done it before. Because of that I asked Suzanne Gaffey – one of my instructors at My Wellbeing, to answer some of most common questions and give me some clarity on this particular matter.

 “Pregnancy is an excellent time to maximize your health and wellbeing”- says Suzanne Gaffey, my first blog guest, a doula and a future midwife. Suzanne works together with her sister Rachel – who is the founder of MyWellbeing.ie. What was once just a dream, ten years later is a strong and thriving family business, run by four strong women, sisters, mothers and wives. Bringing yoga, pilates and yogalates closer to the people in local community is more than a job for them, it’s a lifestyle and that is what makes them so different and successful in what they do. Today they offer a variety of classes and courses, which you can look up for, at their official web page https://www.mywellbeing.ie/ 

  • What are the benefits of exercising during pregnancy, and what type of activities would you recommend? Even to a newbie?

S: During pregnancy, many women may experience common pregnancy related niggles, aches and pains. Most of them are associated with our increasingly sedentary lifestyle. “A combination of yoga and pilates is the perfect remedy to stretch, soothe and strengthen mums-to-be from head to toe.” Also, no prior experience in any of these, above mentioned activities is needed. She said that her main goal, after every class is to have women float out of the studio feeling calm, confident and empowered. Pregnant or not, who wouldn’t want that? 

  • When would be the best time to start, around what week, and until when? Is it safe to exercise all the way until the delivery?

S: Women are welcome in our classes at any stage of their pregnancy journey under the condition they are healthy and feeling well. In class, we have women from the first trimester all the way up to full term and it is not uncommon to see some of our 40+ weekers in class still going strong! 

  • What type of exercises do you prefer and which of those would you say are the most important, while pregnant, and should not be skipped?

S: What you can expect is a challenging but fun workout, and if I had to pick one exercise that every woman should be doing is pelvic floor exercise, a.k.a. Kegel exercises. The importance of a strong pelvic floor for recovery postnatally is immense. Women who work their pelvic floor antenatal tend to have a faster recovery postnatally. 

Exercises we do in class, such as pelvic floor work, lots of lunges and squats are not only excellent to strengthen the body during pregnancy, but positions such as lunging and squatting, or spending time on hands and knees are excellent positions to labor in and potentially birth your baby in. These positions make space in the body and allow your baby to descend with the help of gravity. In addition to trying a yoga or pilates, swimming can also be a lovely exercise during pregnancy, that supports the body and can be a welcome relief for those pregnancy aches and pains. Many women so far commented how exercises we did in class, helped them throughout their own labors. Another common piece of feedback I hear from students is about the importance of breathwork. Often I hear women, long after they’ve had their babies who say to me: “I remember the breathwork from class and that kept me calm, made me concentrate and got me through…”

She also emphasized the importance of not forgetting mental health of mums-to-be saying that women should take a good care of their mind as well, especially during pregnancy. She recommended breathwork, meditation and any form of relaxation, which can really help calm the body and mind.

From my personal experience, I must say that I wouldn’t be able to pull through some days, without these classes – where I feel very comfortable and confident knowing that there’s a place where I can be myself (no matter how heavy, or hormonal I am feeling) without being judged, and a place where I can get much needed advice and expertise from these amazing ladies, the Gaffey sisters.

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