Exercising in pregnancy is so highly recommended, if we follow the correct guidelines! Although most exercise is safe there are a few specific things to be aware of to ensure full safety to both mum and baby and that no adverse symptoms occur. You can read the full Antenatal Guidelines here.
Supine exercise in pregnancy (lying down flat e.g. on your mat) is cautioned against from the second trimester onwards for a couple of reasons. (For the first trimester there are no risks with continuing your exercise as normal).
From 16 weeks, guidelines state that we should avoid supine exercise in pregnancy. The added weight of your bump can press down on to your back and spine and may compress the large vessels that carry your oxygen and blood supply around your body for both you and your baby.
If these vessels are compressed it may make the mother feel light headed/dizzy and cause symptomatic hypotension, which is when her blood pressure may drop significantly and could lead to her fainting or feeling unwell. However, during exercise the mother can monitor how she feels and stop immediately if any feelings of dizziness, faint, light headed etc occur so any adverse effects would hopefully be very rare anyway.
For the baby, this compression could cause a reduction in blood flow to the uterus, and the reduced oxygen supply can cause their heart rate to slow down (bradycardia). This may show as reduced or abnormal movements from the baby during this time.
When exercising, it would be rare to remain still for prolonged periods of time, therefore guidelines also state that low intensity supine exercise can occur until 35 weeks pregnancy for 2-3 minutes at a time. If the mother then moves on to her side or changes position there should be no or minimal risks.
Alternatively, you can exercise with a 30 degree incline using an arc barrel, bolster, or stacked pillows to reduce the weight on your spine. This means you can still do some supine exercises and know that there is no risk at all! This is often much more comfortable too as your bump gets larger!
You can also try these FREE Pregnancy Pilates videos that show you different positions to exercise in that are completely safe for all trimesters!
Sleeping in supine is best avoided because you may remain in that position for extended periods of time, and although you cannot control what you do in your sleep you should aim to sleep on your side and use pillows to help reduce sleeping on your back where possible.
The research did also show that despite these abnormal responses from the baby during supine exercise, exercising in pregnancy is NOT associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes such as low birth weight, stillbirth or miscarriage.
All this is greatly encouraging for exercising mums and shows that with the right information you can exercise safely for you and your baby!
Get started right now with the Pregnancy Pilates FREE home videos here! Or click on the video below to play!
Reference: Br J Sports Med 2019;53:82–89.