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Exercise to stay fit and fabulous

Pregnancy doesn't mean you have to confine yourself to the couch for 40 weeks. Far from it. Taking regular exercise won't just make you feel better, it can also help with the birth.

Preparing yourself both mentally and physically for labour will not only make the birth easier, it's also a great way of getting to know your baby. You'll become familiar with your body and learn to listen to what's going on within.

The benefits of exercise
Endorphins are the body's natural painkillers which are released when you exercise. They make you feel better and happier. They’re great for your baby as well – they’ll feel good because you do. Movement improves your circulation, which in turn reduces swelling. Your contractions will be more effective and labour can progress more quickly if you're fit.

Keep going to the gym
If you have a regular fitness routine, like going to the gym, you can keep doing that. Perhaps you want to try a class that’s especially for pregnant women, such as pregnancy yoga or low-impact aerobics. These types of classes have grown over recent years and there are many available. Ask around.

Don’t do contact sports
There are some types of exercise that pregnant women shouldn’t do, such as contact sports and extreme sports. You cannot protect your baby when doing certain sports, for instance, ball sports and riding, as you can suddenly have a fall or get hit.

Some forms of exercise – walking, yoga, Pilates, antenatal aqua-aerobics and swimming – you can do right up until the birth.

The rules for exercising during pregnancy
Get advice from your LMC about other kinds of exercise, and always follow the golden rules:
Rule 1 - Listen to your body. Do not push yourself to a level of discomfort.
Rule 2 - If you’re red in the face or too breathless to talk, you’re overexerting and overheating.
Rule 3 - Do not compress the baby or your diaphragm. Avoid abdominal crunches and some forward stretches.
Rule 4 - Go gently to avoid overstretching as the pregnancy hormone relaxin has relaxed all your connective tissue.
Rule 5 - Eat well and drink plenty of fluids.
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