Posted on Apr 27, 2018

The ever unsolved query about whether one should exercise during pregnancy or not, what are the exercises that should be done, frequency and repetition per, what are the different forms available, till which month exercises must be done, when to stop exercises, can exercises be done during labor and the most frequently asked question, “Why should I exercise during pregnancy?”

Exercise during pregnancy is clichéd to a great extent in India and when it comes to dance, it is a big no as there is lack of knowledge about the proper form, correct technique and the benefits of it during pregnancy and labor. When the happy news breaks of conception, the activity level of the woman goes down by notches; even a simple glass of water is served to her. Many activities of daily living are given assistance; bending, sitting cross leg and twisting are not allowed; exercises are neglected and not given the required amount of importance and by the end of the third trimester they are housebound! Many myths revolve around exercises during pregnancy, to name a few: exercises are not good for the baby and the mother, a baby doesn’t get proper nutrition if mother exercises, exercises break the water bag, and it induces premature labor.

Exercise workout for the “expecting mothers” is need of the hour. Every woman has the ability to deliver the natural way but in the present world the quality of food has become inferior, lives have become sedentary, work assistance is more and mental stress has increased by leaps and bounds. Exercise is an integral part of pregnancy which makes the mommy-to-be fit, active and most importantly it increases the chances of normal delivery plus assists in delivering the natural way. Even if one wasn’t exercising before pregnancy, this is the best time to start exercises. The pregnancy hormone; i.e. progesterone; itself is a very depressing hormone and exercises help to tone down its effects by releasing happy hormones. There are many benefits of exercise viz. keeps the expecting mother happy, a baby becomes active in a womb, helps the mother to be calm, keeps the hormones in check, prepare for the birthing process, the post-delivery recovery is relatively quick and helps to keep baby blues at bay. The many more benefits of exercises are:

  • Helps to love your body image
  • Releases endorphins i.e. body’s natural pain-relieving substance
  • Avoid aches, pains, and discomforts
  • Improves sleep pattern
  • Relaxation exercises:
    • Reduce anxiety
    • Improve mood
  • Kegels:
    • Tone the pelvic floor muscles
    • Reducing and/or preventing the onset of incontinence.
  • Prevents and restores the diastasis recti
  • Strengthening exercises:
    • Strengthen and tone the muscles of the lower limbs, upper limbs
    • Back and pelvic floor muscles
  • Stretching exercises and Yogasanas:
    • Prepare the muscles for delivery
    • Increases the mobility of pelvic joints
  • Improves posture
  • Breathing exercises:
    • Increases the breathing capacity
    • Improves the lung function
  • Lamaze breathing:
    • Helps in coping with long, hard labor
    • Keeps the Mother alert and aware which helps her to work with her body during labor and delivery
  • Cardio exercise program:
    • Improves the heart and lung performance
    • Improves endurance and stamina
  • Breast Care Exercises, life nipples are flat or inverted
  • Reduce the chances of Pregnancy Complications:
    • Reduce the risk of Gestational Diabetes. Gestational diabetes increases the risk of cesarean section
    • Maintain the blood pressure hence avoiding Pre-eclampsia, which again is a cause for cesarean section
  • Avoid excessive fat accumulation and hence keeping the weight gain optimal.
    Increased weight around the pelvic region is a contributing factor for cesarean section.
  • Most importantly, chances of Vaginal Delivery are particularly high
  • Makes delivery less traumatizing for the baby
  • Help in speeding the recovery in post-delivery phase
  • Help avoid postpartum blues, which is a major concern after the delivery as it may vary from mere baby blues to something more advanced and dangerous like psychosis

Pregnancy and childbirth alters the dynamic structures of the body which leaves the body in a weak state vulnerable to pains, aches, and injuries. Maintaining good body posture and exercises avoid/ resolve much pregnancy
and postpartum problems, both physical and mental.

What is the different form of exercises?

A wide range of exercises can be done which includes yogasanas, strengthening, pilates, stretching, bodyweight workout and pregnancy dance. Note: Only walking is never enough. Walking is just cardio and strength training is a must to increase the strength and tone of the pelvic floor muscles (musculature around the uterus and the birth canal).

Why Dance?

Why not Dance? Who doesn’t love to dance? Then why restrict during Pregnancy? Dance is an amazing form of exercise that helps the body to loosen up, makes one happy and stress-free! Dance in itself is a complete workout
a routine which includes strengthening, maintains and increases the tone of the muscles, core body workout, releases tightness of the muscles, an excellent form of cardio, upper body workout, increases chest mobility and increases pelvic mobility. It includes different dance forms, to name a few, jive, cha cha cha, belly dancing, soft bhangra, waltz, salsa, ballet and freestyle. Guided exercise program must be taken to learn the proper form, correct technique and to avoid injury. The dance routine should start with complete body warm up and should be followed by cool down. The duration of the session should range between 45minutes to 60minutes.

When to start exercises?

After completion of 3months of pregnancy (first trimester) i.e. from 4th month onwards.

Till when can I continue exercises?

Till the day you deliver. There are exercises that can be done during labor to help speed up the process of childbirth.

Precautions during Dance workout:

  • Go for a guided exercise program, tailor-made for the expectant mother
  • Warm up and cool down essential
  • The workout should graduate from low intensity to medium intensity. This avoids injury, avoids a rapid increase in heart rate, blood pressure and respiratory rate
  • Always keep a count of the pulse rate before and after the workout
  • Keep yourself hydrated even in between the routine
  • Avoid jerky movements, a sudden change in position, jumping, excessive twisting or bending
  • Stop if felt different from the usual i.e. a headache, dizziness, vomiting, breathlessness, unbearable pain in muscles, chest pain, bleeding or any other unusual symptom

Exercise is the key to a maximum of the aches, pains and few problems felt during pregnancy. It is a boon and a blessing in disguise. Even if you weren’t exercising earlier, pregnancy is the best time to take up a guided exercise program.

The author of the article is a Physiotherapist and a Childbirth Educator. She conducts various regular classes at her clinic in Nagpur and events related to pregnancy care, pregnancy dance and postpartum care of both mother and the baby.


Dr. Barkha Nagpal (P.T.)

Masters of Physiotherapy in Cardiovascular and Respiratory Sciences
Certified Childbirth Educator

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