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Developing an Exercise Program

Your obstetrician should approve the exercise program, during pregnancy.

During Sustained exercises, heart rate increases and breathing becomes deeper resulting in more oxygen entering the blood. This strengthens the heart and lungs (cardiopulmonary system)

Conditioning exercises improves the tone of the muscles, which are being used. They also prevent fat deposition in those areas and keep the muscles stretched.

Doing a combination of these exercises help you to burn Calories, tone your muscles, develop your cardiopulmonary system (heart and lung) and increase the oxygen saturation in the blood.

Sustained Exercise

Walking, bicycling, swimming are good forms of sustained exercise.

  • Brisk walking for 15 – 20 minutes a day helps develop cardiopulmonary strength.

  • Bicycling on a stationery bicycle (to avoid injury) is another excellent sustained exercise.

  • Swimming for 15 – 20 minutes few times a week builds the tone of your legs, arms and back muscles.

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Conditioning Exercise

These exercises improve the muscle tone of the specific areas being used. Do these exercises slowly and smoothly. Initially, do each exercise 2 – 3 times per each sitting. Slowly increase the number of repetitions. Do the exercise in the order they are given.

q       Rib Cage Stretch:

Method : Inhale slowly while raising both your arms over your head to the count of 5. Then exhale, slowly lowering both your arms, first straight out in front of you, then down by your sides, and then behind your back, to the count of 5.

Advantages : Relieves tension and strengthens the shoulders and the upper back.

Precautions: Do not arch your back while doing this exercise.

Repetitions : 5 times per exercise session.

q       Arm Rotation:

Method: Stretch your arms out to your sides with your palms up. Make small circles to the count of 10, gradually increasing the size of the circles. Then reverse the direction of the circles, starting with large circles and gradually decreasing their size to another count of 10.

Advantages: Relieves tension and strengthens the upper back and upper arm muscles.

Repetitions: 2-5 times per exercise session.

   q    Shoulder Rotation:

Method:   Place your fingertips on your shoulders and make backward circles with your elbows. Then reverse the direction and make forward circles.

Advantages : Relieves upper backache caused by change in your centre of gravity due to poor posture or heavy breasts.

Repetitions: 10 times per exercise session. 

       Calf Stretch:

execa.jpg (2549 bytes) Methods: Stand facing a wall or your partner with one leg well forward and the foot flat on the floor. Stretch the other leg behind you with the knee straight and the foot flat on the floor. Press your hands flat against the wall or your partner’s hands. Lunge forward, bending the front leg at the knee and stretching the other calf. Stretch gradually for 15 to 20 seconds. Repeat with the other leg forward.

Advantages: Decreases leg cramps and improves circulation in the legs.

Repetitions: 3 to 5 times per exercise session.

q  q       Swinging legs:

Method: Sit on a chair. Draw large circles in the air with your toes. Rotate your ankles and feet to draw the circles, but do not move your legs. You can do either both feet at once or one foot at a time. Do some circles left to right and some from right to left.

Advantages : Relieves tension strengthens the muscles of the feet. Helps relieve circulatory problems in your legs. They are useful in dealing with the discomfort from swelling, varicose veins, and cramps.

q       Pelvic Rock:

Method: Kneel on the floor on all fours, keeping the knees apart. Do not let your spine sag. Align your head with your spine, tuck in your bottom, pull up your abdominal muscles, and press your spine up at the lower back just enough to erase the spinal curve, do not hump your back. Hold this position for a few seconds, then return to the starting position.

Repeat the exercise using a constant rhythm and a rockin0g motion.

Advantages: Relieves backache and pelvic congestion. Increases tone of abdominal muscles.

Repetitions: 10 times per exercise session.

q       Tailor Press:

Method: Sit on the floor with your legs in front of you and the soles of your feet pressed together and pulled toward your body. Using only the muscles of your legs, press your knees downward. You will feel your inner thigh muscles pull slightly.

Advantages: Stretches the ligaments and muscles on the inside of the thighs and increases their elasticity.

Repetition: 10 times per exercise session.

q       Isometric Tailor Press:

Method: Sit on the floor with your legs in front of you and the soles of your feet pressed together and pulled toward your body (as in tailor press). Hold your knees with your hands. Try to pull your knees up with your hands while pushing them down with your leg muscles. Hold for a count of 5. Now try to press your knees down with your hands while pulling them up with your leg muscles. Hold for another count of 5. There should be no movement in either of these positions, just stationary counterpressure.

Advantages: Strengthens the inner thigh muscles and the pectoral muscles (muscles of the chest), which support the breasts.

Repetitions: 5 repeats per exercise session.

q       Tailor Stretch:

Method: Sit on the floor with your legs stretched out in front of you and angled apart. Lean forward and either reach each hand to its corresponding ankle (right hand to right ankle and left hand to left ankle) or move both hands down the same leg until you reach the toes, then repeat with the other leg.

Advantages: Stretches the ligaments and muscles on the insides of the thighs and increases their elasticity. Stretches the lower back and calf muscles.

Repetitions: 10 times per exercise session.

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  Kegel Exercises

The part of your body including your hipbones is the pelvic area. At the bottom of the pelvis, several layers of muscle stretch between your legs. The muscles attached to the front, back, and sides of the pelvis bone, support the bowel, the bladder and the uterus.

Two pelvic muscles do most of the work. The biggest one stretches like a hammock. The other is shaped like a triangle.

Methods :

Exercises can be done while sitting, standing or lying down.

Sets of exercises:

1st Set:

Identify the muscles.

You should tighten the two major muscles that stretch across your pelvic floor. They are the "hammock" muscle and the "triangle" muscle. Here are three methods to identify these muscles.

1. Try to stop the flow of urine when you are sitting on the toilet. If you can do it, you are using the right muscles.

2. Imagine that you are trying to stop passing gas. Squeeze the muscles you would use. If you sense a ‘pulling feeling’, those are the right muscles for pelvic exercises.

3. Lie down and put your finger inside your vagina. Squeeze as if you were trying to stop urine from coming out. If you feel tightness on your finger, you are squeezing the right pelvic muscle.

2nd Set:

Pull in the pelvic muscles and hold for a count of 3. Then relax for a count of 3. Work up to 10 to 15 repeats each time you exercise.


  • Exercising these muscles help you achieve voluntary control of the pelvic floor.
  • During delivery, these muscles are stretched due to the passage of the baby. A strong and elastic pelvic floor can reduce or prevent problems such as sagging organs or leaking urine, which can occur due to excessive stretching. 
  • These exercises help you to relax the muscles during delivery also decreasing the need of episiotomy.   
  • These exercises will promote healing and will restore muscle tone after your baby is born.


  • Don't squeeze other muscles at the same time.
  • Be careful not to tighten your stomach, legs, or other muscles. Squeezing the wrong muscles can put more pressure on your bladder control muscles. Just squeeze the pelvic muscles.
  • Don't hold your breath.
  • Do these exercises only after passing urine (empty bladder).
  • Squeeze your pelvic muscles tightly and hold on until after you sneeze, lift, or jump. After you train yourself to tighten the pelvic muscles for these moments, you will have fewer accidents.

Women who should not exercise while being pregnant include those who:

  • Have experienced pre-term labour previously.
  • Have obstetrical complications, including persistent vaginal bleeding, incompetent cervix, ruptured membranes.
  • Have an indication, through an ultrasound examination, that the foetus is not growing as quickly as it should.  
  • Have a history of medical problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and thyroid disease should exercise only with their doctor’s approval.    


  • Initially, start with 5 per exercise session.
  • Next week, increase to 7 – 8 each. Slowly to as many times as you can per exercise session.
  • Repeat this exercise 2 – 3 times / day.
  • You can use three positions: lying, sitting, and standing. You can exercise while lying on the floor, sitting at a desk, or standing in the kitchen. Using all three positions makes the muscles strongest.

Points to Remember

  • Weak pelvic muscles often cause bladder control problems.
  • Daily exercises can strengthen pelvic muscles.
  • These exercises often improve bladder control.
  • Ask your doctor or nurse. Are you squeezing the right muscles?
  • Tighten your pelvic muscles before sneezing, lifting, or jumping. This can prevent pelvic muscle damage.
  • Persistent bladder control problem may be due to urinary infection or an excessively loose pelvic floor. Your doctor will be able to help you to deal with these.

Preparing For Child Birth:

There are various relaxation and breathing techniques, which lessen the discomfort and pain during labour. These techniques require regular practice to be perfect. Antenatal period is the best time to practice them.   

When Can Postpartum Exercises Begin?

Once the baby arrives, women generally are eager to regain their pre-pregnancy figures. If a woman has exercised regularly during pregnancy, she is closer to her goal. However, since pregnancy-related changes in bodily systems (such as the cardiovascular system) persist for about 4 to 6 weeks, a woman should let her body be her guide. Women who have had a caesarean may need to delay their return to exercise.

You can start your exercise routine after consulting your doctor.

From day 1.

Kegel Exercise:

Advantages : Tones the pelvic floor muscles and improves the circulation. It fastens the healing of the episiotomy wound.

Foot pedalling: 

Method : Lie on your back with legs stretched. Slowly bend your feet bringing your toes towards your body. You can feel your calf muscle being stretched. Bring your feet to the normal position.

Advantages: Prevents swelling of the feet by improving the circulation.

Repetitions: 5 – 10 times per exercise session 

Abdominal tightening:

Method : You can do this exercise by sitting or standing. Tuck in your abdominal muscles. Hold them tightly for 5 seconds. Breathe normally. Gradually increase the holding time to 10 seconds.

Advantages : Restores the tone of the abdomen muscles. 

Repetitions: 5 – 10 times per exercise session

From day 2:

Pelvic tilt: 

Method: Lie on your back with the knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Arch your back and press your buttocks against the ground. Then relax the buttocks and press your back against the ground, contracting the abdominal muscles. Breathe normally. 

Advantages: Restores the tone of the abdomen muscles. 

Repetitions: 5 – 10 times per exercise session.

From day 3

Head lifting:

Method :  Lie on your back with the knees bent and the feet flat on the ground. Cross your arms over your abdomen. Lift your head off the ground, while exhaling, and press your abdomen with your palms. Hold in this position for few seconds, then inhale and relax.

Advantages: Restores the tone of the abdomen muscles.

Repetitions: 5 – 10 times per exercise session.

From 2nd week: 

Abdominal toning:
Method:   Sit up with your legs bent,feet flat on the floor and arms folded in front.Exhale,while gently tilting your pelvis forward, and  gradually leaning back till you feel your abdominal muscles tighten. Hold for sometime, breathe normally. Sit up straight while inhaling

Advantages:     Restores the tone of the abdominal muscles

Repetitions:       5-10 times per exercises session.

Curl ups:
Method: Lie flat on the ground, with legs bent, feet flat kept apart on the ground and palms rested on the thighs. While exhaling, lift your head and shoulders above the ground and reach your hands to the knees. Hold for a count of 5. Relax slowly while inhaling.

Advantages:   Strengthens the vertical muscles of the abdomen.

Repetitions: 5-10 times per exercise session.

From 3rd week

Side kicks
Method: Lie on one side on the ground keeping your hands above the head and legs straight. Keeping your lower leg straight,raise your upper leg and hand to the ceiling. Touch your hand to the knee.Return to your starting position.Do 10-15 times on each side.

Advantages: Helps in restoring the waistline.

Repetitions : Do 5-10 times on each side per exercise session

Modified sit-ups:
Method  I:   Lie on the back, with the knees bent, feet flat on the ground and hands behind the head. Slowly raise the head and the shoulders above the ground and try touching the elbows to the knees.

Method – II : Lie on the back, with the knees bent, feet flat on the ground and hands behind the head. Slowly raise the head and the shoulders above the ground and try touching the elbows to the outer side of a knee.

Advantages : Tones the abdominal muscles.

Repetitions : 5-10 times per exercise session

Continue these exercises for the next 2 months. You can also add walking briskly, cycling and swimming to your schedule.


  • Consult your doctor before adopting a regime.
  • Start slowly.
  • Stop exercising if you feel pain, giddiness, breathless or tired
  • Eat properly and enough.    


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