It is very important to be active during pregnancy to maintain a healthy pregnancy. Being sedentary for long periods can have harmful effects on the health of the expecting mother and her baby in the womb. In addition to excessive weight gain and fitness loss, being inactive during pregnancy is also associated with gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia. It is also associated with general pregnancy aches and pains. This article sheds some light on the consequences of lack of exercise during pregnancy.
How Important Is Exercise During Pregnancy?
Pregnant women often find excuses not to exercise. Most ask, “is it ok not to exercise during pregnancy?” However, it turns out that pregnant women can benefit from physical activity in many ways. There are not only psychological benefits, fitness increases, and a reduced chance of excessive weight gain, but many more.
Generally, mild to moderate physical activity can benefit a pregnant woman. In most cases, it will not affect the progression of pregnancy adversely. Workouts during pregnancy can improve your overall fitness.
Keeping active during pregnancy has the following advantages.
- Prepare the body of the mother for labor and childbirth by increasing muscle tone, stamina, and strength
- Workouts strengthen your heart and blood vessels
- Exercise during pregnancy may lower the risk of certain conditions like preeclampsia
- Exercise helps to manage gestational diabetes. During exercise, pregnant women’s muscles increase the need for glucose. Even after exercise, the muscles remain highly sensitive to insulin for some time. Consequently, blood glucose levels drop. Women with gestational diabetes, thus, should exercise moderately for at least half an hour every day
- By being physically active, pregnant women can even avoid constipation at home only, a most common problem during pregnancy
- Improves blood circulation and may be able to reduce the risk of varicose veins to some extent
- Although pregnant women find it harder to fall asleep, those who exercise regularly report better quality sleep and feeling more rested the next day.
- Prenatal exercise releases endorphins that have been shown to help improve mood, reduce stress, and reduce anxiety1
- As your center of gravity shifts, your posture and balance become more and more important. Exercising greatly helps in this area
- You’re not alone in feeling lower back pain and achy pelvis due to your growing baby bump. Certain pregnancy stretches may help ease these discomforts
- The first trimester and the third trimester are notorious for fatigue in women. You can boost your energy level with an easy stroll or prenatal yoga class
Being active during pregnancy benefits more than just the mother. Children whose mothers exercise during pregnancy have many developmental advantages, which may contribute to their health and activity levels later in life. They are relatively less likely to be obese2.
Related Reading: 11 Benefits Of Walking During Pregnancy
Lack Of Exercise During Pregnancy- 9 Undesirable Effects
During pregnancy, exercise can positively impact the wellbeing of the mother and fetus. Conversely, not getting enough physical activities during pregnancy can lead to various pregnancy complications.
Following are some of the effects of lack of exercise during pregnancy:
Pregnant women are prone to constipation. Pregnancy hormones are often responsible for this. However, constipation has been linked with a lack of physical activity3. Pregnant women who don’t exercise are at greater risk of chronic constipation, while those who do exercise are at lower risk and are less likely to become constipated. Working out increases the heart rate and respiratory rate. It stimulates the contraction of intestine muscles. As a result, stools will move out more quickly.
2. Gestational diabetes
Researchers have discovered that sedentary behavior and decreased physical activity can lead to gestational diabetes. Physical activity during pregnancy has gained popularity as the best treatment for gestational diabetes mellitus. Exercise promotes the body’s insulin sensitivity, which in turn helps regulate blood sugar levels.
Related Reading: 8 Benefits Of Honey During Pregnancy
3. Gestational hypertension and preeclampsia
One in ten pregnancies is affected by hypertension of some kind4. Women with previously normotensive blood pressure may develop gestational hypertension after the 20th week of pregnancy. The risks of gestational hypertension are higher among pregnant women who are sedentary compared to women who exercise for 30–60 minutes two to seven times per week5.
A severe pregnancy complication resulting from this is preeclampsia. Studies prove that increased levels of physical activity during pregnancy may reduce the risk for preeclampsia while sedentary lifestyles may increase the risk.
4. Excessive weight gain
Excessive gestational weight gain (GWG) is one of the most common concerns of pregnant women. Lack of physical activities increases the risk of excessive GWG. Being overweight during pregnancy can cause unwanted complications and also the risk of delivering an overweight baby increase. During pregnancy, 46% of women gained more weight than was recommended6. Excessive gestational weight gain (EGWG) is associated with ‘Large For Gestational Age’ (LGA) and macrosomia in babies.
5. Longer labor
The fitness level of the mother can result in shorter labor, fewer medical interventions, and less exhaustion during labor. Lack of exercise increases the chances of caesarean delivery, instrumental birth, and prolonged labor among expecting mothers7.
Related Reading: 9 Risks Of Exercising Too Soon Postpartum
6. Sleep issues
It is common to experience problems with sleep during pregnancy, mostly in the third trimester. Lack of exercise is one of the few causes of sleep deprivation during pregnancy. There is mounting evidence that exercise can help improve sleep. Those who exercise moderately for 30 minutes may find they get a better night’s sleep8. This suggests that pregnant women who lack exercise are more likely to suffer from sleeping disorders.
7. Varicose veins
Pregnancy increases the risk of varicose veins, regardless of family history. Pregnant women are at higher risk for varicose veins, in the lower limbs. Physically less active women who spend eight hours a day in sedentary activities like sitting were significantly more likely to develop varicose veins9. An increase in body weight and a decrease in blood flow are two major factors that contribute to varicose veins during pregnancy. Increased weight gain and reduced blood flow result from decreased physical activity. Therefore, pregnant women who do not exercise are at an increased risk of varicose veins.
8. Swelling, aches, and pains
During pregnancy, women experience various aches and pains. Swelling is also a normal occurrence. Just as certain exercises can potentially alleviate these discomforts, the lack of exercise during pregnancy can contribute to persisting aches and pains.
Related Reading: 7 Home Remedies For Leg Cramps During Pregnancy
Pregnant women often experience stress and anxiety. Keeping physically active may play a key role in regulating mood10. Exercise is one of the well-established, drug-free, tried & tested ways to handle emotions during pregnancy. It also helps to treat anxiety disorders and depression. The lack of exercise can exacerbate mood swings or increase the risk of contracting anxiety issues and stress during pregnancy.
Who Should Not Exercise During Pregnancy- Exceptions
Exercise can be risky for some pregnant women due to certain medical conditions:
- It may not be a good idea to exercise if the pregnant woman has asthma, heart disease, or uncontrolled Type 1 diabetes
- Expecting women with restrictive lung disease, a lung condition that restricts the expansion of the lungs while breathing
- Pregnant women with an incompetent cervix, which is characterized by premature dilation of the cervix
- Women with a previous history of spontaneous preterm labor and premature rupture of membrane
- One who experiences spotting or bleeding
- Those who experiencing pregnancy-induced hypertension
- Those who have placenta previa and preeclampsia.
- Expecting women carrying more than one child
- Expecting women with a history of miscarriages or threats of miscarriages
Related Reading: 8 Workouts To Avoid During Pregnancy
Pregnant women should consult their medical doctor before beginning any new exercise program, and instructors should always know they’re pregnant if they’re attending classes. In addition, consider the conditions outlined above where exercising isn’t advised.
What Are The Negative Effects Of Exercise During Pregnancy?
Pregnant women’s blood glucose levels decrease much more rapidly during exercise than usual. If you are planning to exercise while pregnant, it is important to consume the recommended energy intake,
- Dehydration during pregnancy is one of the common negative effects of exercise. Overheating and excessive sweating causes dehydration, which leads to pregnancy complications. The best way to avoid this is to exercise early in the morning or late in the evening or an air-conditioned gym
- Heat and humidity make it difficult to exercise
- Whenever you head to the gym or stroll in the park, bring a bottle of water with you
- Make sure you wear comfortable gym clothes when exercising
The physical changes that come with pregnancy can be managed with regular exercise, which will benefit you in the long run. The more fit you are during pregnancy, the quicker you will recover after delivery. You should, however, pay attention to your body’s signals. Exercise should be stopped at once and must seek immediate medical attention if you experience bleeding, unusual or sharp pain, light-headedness, premature contractions, or any fluid leakage. Consider pregnancy as a motivation to start exercising regularly if you haven’t done so already. Even a simple walk can make a big difference.