If exercise has been a part of your life before you conceived, the chances are that you will want to continue doing some form of physical activity during your pregnancy. Unless you are suffering from a medical problem and your doctor has advised you to steer clear of exercise, you should be safe to continue doing whatever activity you were doing before you became pregnant, as your body will already be used to the physical exertion.
The only word of warning I would give is about lifting weights: bear in mind that the pregnancy hormones now flooding your body are loosening your joints, ligaments and tendons in preparation for the birth (particularly those in the pelvic and lower back areas) and, by lifting heavy weights, you risk overstretching and permanently damaging them.
By all means continue to lift weights, but use lighter ones. And if you are in any doubt about the exercise you are doing, speak to your GP or midwife.
If you are not a regular exerciser, now is not the time to take up a new sport, but physical activities such as yoga and Pilates (ideally, classes tailored specifically for pregnant women), cycling, swimming (an excellent aerobic and anaerobic form of exercise) and brisk walking are safe to start now if you have not been doing them before and are fine to continue through all stages of pregnancy.
Tiredness and morning sickness mean that women often cut back on exercise during the first trimester. This is absolutely fine, as it is important to listen to your own body. If you cannot face doing any gym classes for a few weeks, don’t force yourself. Try to keep walking, or perhaps go swimming instead. And if any sort of exertion really is too much, then don’t feel guilty. In all likelihood, you will feel re-energised once the symptoms disappear at the end of the trimester, and you will want to start exercising again, particularly if it is an established part of your weekly routine.
This is an edited extract from One Born Every Minute: Expecting a Baby? by Dr Penelope Law (Quadrille, £25).
Text © 2013 Dr Penelope Law