Staying active during pregnancy, for women with type 1 diabetes
Becoming pregnant does not mean you have to give up exercise or other physical activity. In fact, women with diabetes benefit from regular physical activity in pregnancy. It is a great way to relax and spend time with family and friends, and can help you with managing your diabetes.
Physical activity during pregnancy
Physical activity can help you manage your blood glucose levels and pregnancy weight gain, as well as keep you fit to prepare for the birth of your baby. It also has other benefits, such as managing pregnancy symptoms like heartburn, constipation and lower back pain. Regular physical activity is good for your emotional health and wellbeing, and can help you return to a healthy weight after you have had your baby.
Your goal, while pregnant, should be to maintain your general health and fitness. Pregnancy is not the time to begin a new or strenuous exercise routine.
Many types of physical activity are suitable during pregnancy. Talk to your doctor or midwife before starting or continuing any form of physical activity while you are pregnant.
For women with type 1 diabetes without any other medical or pregnancy complications, aim for 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most days of the week. This can also be broken up into shorter periods of at least 10 minutes, three times a day. ‘Moderate physical activity’ means that while being active you will have a slight but noticeable increase in breathing and heart rate (but you should still be able to hold a conversation).
Moderate activities could include swimming, brisk walking, aqua fitness classes, stationary cycling, prenatal exercise classes or light to moderate resistance exercise.
Pelvic floor exercises during pregnancy can help with recovery after your baby is born. As your pregnancy progresses, you may find that some activities are more suitable than others. Monitoring your daily activity by keeping an exercise diary or using a device such as an activity tracker can also encourage you to be active.
To exercise safely remember to:
- check your blood glucose levels before, during (if needed) and after exercise
- always have treatment available for hypos and check that your blood glucose levels are not low before you start exercising
- include a 5–10 minute warm-up and cool down
- drink plenty of water during and after physical activity
- wear loose, light clothing to avoid overheating
- avoid exercise when you are hungry, unwell, have high blood glucose levels, ketones in your blood or urine, or a high temperature.
When exercising during pregnancy, STOP and seek medical advice if you experience chest pain, dizziness, back or pelvic pain, calf pain or sudden swelling of ankles, hands or face, contractions or vaginal bleeding or a decrease in fetal movements.
If you are already physically active, discuss your current activities with your GP or other health professionals. In many cases, you may be able to continue your activities as long as it is comfortable to do so. During pregnancy avoid activities that involve lying flat or increase the risk of falling, as well as contact or extreme sports.
Blood glucose levels
Remember that you will need to consider the effect of physical activity on your blood glucose levels. Exercise generally lowers blood glucose levels, so you may need to make adjustments to your insulin dose or insulin pump rate. It is important to discuss physical activity with your health professionals.