Labour is called labour for a reason. It is hard, physically exhausting work. It can sometimes last many hours, but even if it is short, it is still hard work. Not only is it physically demanding, it also tests your mental strength. Then when you think it’s all over and you finally give birth to your baby, you are immediately responsible for caring for a newborn. No small feat in itself. With the rigorous and sometimes daunting task of bringing babies into the world, it is good to be well prepared both in body and mind.
If you are someone who does not love exercise (like me), now is NOT the time to start running marathons, if you catch my drift. But it IS definitely time to start moving and training your body gently towards the goal of being able to birth your baby actively and healthily. Increasing your fitness levels will also help you recover more quickly and manage during the difficult, sleepless few months that follow birth. Even minimal exercise, such as walking for 20 minutes every other day before and after birth is beneficial. It has also been shown to decrease the incidence of postnatal depression.
If you ARE someone who loves exercise but are worried because you’ve heard it can be dangerous for babies, fear not. Generally, if you are still comfortable to do so and you and your baby are healthy, with no vaginal bleeding or other pregnancy problems, you can continue to do mild to moderate intensity exercise throughout pregnancy.
There are a few reasons to be concerned about exercising in pregnancy. During pregnancy, specific hormones are released to help relax your ligaments and smooth muscles. This can increase your risk of injury, especially if you are doing high impact exercise. The best rule of thumb is to stick to low impact exercise and stop immediately if it “just doesn’t feel right”. Another concern is overheating and increasing your heart rate too much, which is associated with a reduced blood flow to the baby. Avoid sports where there is a risk of falling or being hit in the stomach (ie. horse riding, basketball etc). Total contraindications to exercise are vaginal bleeding, premature rupture of membranes (breaking your waters before you’re full term), premature labour, extremely high blood pressure or pre-eclampsia and heart disease. Always talk with your midwife or doctor if you’re worried about exercise.
The Victorian Government Department of Health has great information about pregnancy and exercise, click here to have a look.
Here are a list of services that provide exercise programs for pregnant women, both in and around the Sutherland Shire (in no particular order):
1) Gracefully Fit and Healthy, 111 Mulga Rd Oatley, NSW, 2223, (02) 9585 2244
I did prenatal yoga classes here and could not recommend them highly enough. They were great! Lovely, caring instructors who modify classes to individual needs and fitness levels. During the classes you also work on strengthening your mind by learning specific labour breathing techniques and ways to stay calm and in control during birth. I can say with great confidence that these classes helped me have such a wonderful birth experience with Arlo. They also run fertility yoga, postnatal mums & bubs yoga and mums & toddlers yoga classes. There is a naturopath who can help you with all your needs for pregnancy, birth and beyond.
2) Engadine Yoga and Pilates Centre - Suite 1, 1075 Old Princes Hwy, Engadine, NSW 2233, (02) 9548 5368
I haven’t done any classes here but one of my friends did pregnancy yoga here and quite enjoyed it.
3) Sutherland Shire Leisure Centres – Click here to go to the website
Engadine, Sutherland and Caringbah leisure centres run aqua aerobics classes. They are not pregnancy specific but I attended classes at Sutherland and Caringbah and they were happy to have me there and modified the program for me. Just be aware you will probably be the only pregnant one doing the classes along with all the white hairs. It’s best to do the “gentle aqua” program.
4) Sydney Aquanatal – Visit website for multiple locations in Sydney
One of my lovely midwifery colleagues runs this business. I’m really sad that I did not manage to get to a class because I believe a tailor made aqua class for pregnancy is ideal exercise! 3rd time round (don’t worry, not even thinking about it yet) I’m going to make sure I’m more organised!
5) Arna Opperman – 134 President Ave, Miranda, NSW, 2228, (02) 95256979 www.arnaopperman.com (website still in development)
This lady does physiotherapy and pilates classes. My sister in law went to her both pre and postnatally and was given a complement by her obstetrician during her caesarean that her stomach muscles were great!
6) Calmbirth classes – see website for more info
Although these aren’t exercise classes for your body, they are fabulous exercise classes for your mind! I didn’t actually do the classes but I read a friend’s class notes (very extensive) and was able to utilise so much of the meditation and mental preparation during labour. Just reading the notes was amazing, imagine what doing the classes would do! Again, something I will definitely be doing next time round.
There is also nothing wrong with good old fashioned walking. Just remember to stay well hydrated and LISTEN to your body and your baby. Regular gentle exercise for both your body and your mind, really is the best thing to prepare you for the journey of becoming a mother.