Asthma can be particularly worrying during pregnancy. Is adding exercise into the mix a stretch too far?
Beki Tovey says, "Not at all." As a strong advocate for people with asthma to get active, she explores how she navigated asthma and exercise during her pregnancy.
Today, Beki provides her five top tips for getting your activity levels up when pregnant – safely and with continued guidance from your healthcare team.
Hi guys - good news! I'm seven months pregnant and expecting the arrival of our new family member in February 2023!
As someone with asthma, I was anxious about how pregnancy would affect my symptoms - particularly during the third trimester. The baby would be much more grown by then, putting more pressure on my lungs and making me breathless. Fortunately, I've been pretty lucky so far. But I definitely take my time going up the stairs now!
1. Discuss your pregnancy and asthma with your healthcare team
You can find lots of professional medical advice about managing asthma and pregnancy. But, today, I want to focus on the benefits of exercise - for both physical and mental well-being.
Tell your midwife about your asthma early on and ensure it's included in your pregnancy notes and birth plan! Likewise, talk to your healthcare team about your current exercise regimen. Ask for advice on what sports are safe to continue during pregnancy. Hint: probably not skydiving or full-contact kickboxing (haha).
During your pregnancy, carry on with your regular asthma check-ups. Talk to your healthcare provider before continuing or stopping any medication during the gestation period. Many medicines are safe to use, but always, always check!
2. Stay active during your pregnancy – even with asthma
I massively advocate for my fellow people with asthma to embrace exercise. Exercise helps with controlling your breathing and building lung capacity. It also releases feel-good endorphins!
All three of these are essential when you're pregnant. So, even though your workout routine might look slightly different, you can still do a lot.
According to research, active women experience fewer problems in the later stages of pregnancy and labour. So, try to keep up with your daily physical activity for as long as you feel comfortable.
I have kept as active as I can over the last few months. Still, I'm not going to lie; my usual running and cycling have taken a bit of a back seat. I struggled with nausea a lot in the first trimester. Although I managed a five-kilometre park run at six weeks pregnant, I had to take lots of pauses. Mainly to stop myself from throwing up in the hedge!
Cycling continued for a bit longer. There was less up-and-down motion, and I enjoyed off-road exploring with the family over the summer holidays. I could ride at a slower pace without worrying about traffic around me.
3. Adapt your lifestyle to your changing condition
You may need to slow down as your pregnancy progresses. Exercise doesn't need to be strenuous to be beneficial - being able to hold a conversation without breathlessness is a good goal.
Now I'm into my final trimester, I'm more focused on daily walks in the fresh air. I've also rediscovered my love for yoga and go to a weekly pregnancy yoga class at the weekend. It has been fantastic for dealing with the various aches and pains that come with growing a tiny human.
Pregnancy yoga also helps with my headspace as I navigate pregnancy's mental challenges. As it's an in-person class, I've been lucky enough to connect with other women on the same journey. And thank goodness - I feel like my irrational crying or constant need to go to the toilet is more "normal!"
4. Avoid comparing yourself with others
As I go into the “fourth trimester”/post-birth period, I will focus on sustaining a healthy activity level. However, I'm under no illusion that I know how everything will play out. All bodies are different. Everyone experiences pregnancy differently - especially with an underlying health condition like asthma.
Still, it's been hard to not compare myself with others during this time, particularly on social media. In the weeks leading up to the birth and then post-partum, I will use my energy to recover and mother my baby. Not waste it in a silent competition with Instagram mums.
5. Take your time post-partum; there’s no need to rush
I won't be trying to "bounce back" after having a baby or focusing too much on losing the "baby weight" through exercise. I need to pace myself. For example, gentle walks will help blow away the cobwebs and relieve tiredness from lack of sleep.
Depending on the baby's due date, the season may present extra asthma triggers to cope with. In the winter, my asthma can flare up with the cold, so I make sure to layer up when heading outside. This will be doubly important when the baby arrives.
I'm also looking into some postnatal exercise classes. I enjoyed pregnancy yoga so much, and I'd love the connection and social interaction again. When you have a baby, it's common for your world to get more tight-knit for a while. But maintaining your mental well-being is vital, so don't be afraid to try some social activities!
It's usually a good idea to wait until after your six-week postnatal check before re-starting high-impact exercise. Aerobics and running are fun, but not doing too much, too soon is essential. Listen to your body, pace yourself and make sure you get plenty of rest!
NPS-IE-NP-00660 December 2022