Embarrassing Bodies’ Dr Dawn Harper is working with AptaClub on their Active for 2 campaign, which looks at the positive impact exercising can have for mother and baby during pregnancy. We caught up with Dr Dawn to find out the ins and outs of keeping active while you're carrying your baby. 

Dr Dawn Harper

Dr Dawn Harper

Please tell us about the Active for 2 campaign and why was it so close to your heart?

From the moment a woman sees her first positive pregnancy test, she has two words tattooed through her middle like a stick of rock – “guilty” and “worried”. Mums to be just want to do the right thing by their unborn baby and there is so much conflicting advice and so many myths out there particularly around exercising in pregnancy. So I am delighted to be working with Aptaclub to help pregnant women know the facts around exercise and pregnancy.

Most people have heard of ‘eating for two’ while pregnant so does a mother to be need to increase her calorie intake while pregnant or is that a myth?

You really only need about 300 extra calories per day when pregnant. You certainly shouldn’t be eating twice your normal diet. The average woman should gain around 10 – 12.5Kg during her pregnancy, but all too often I meet women who gain significantly more, which has health implications for both her and her baby.

Why do you think many women shy away from exercise during pregnancy?

There are so many myths out there about exercise being harmful during pregnancy that a lot of women shy away from any exercise while pregnancy which is such a shame. We know that women who exercise sensibly throughout pregnancy tend to have easier labours.

What sort of exercise is safe to do while you are pregnant?

I am all for pushing ourselves physically, but pregnancy is a time to listen to your body and not to overdo it. How much exercise you can do will depend on how active you were before becoming pregnant. Walking, yoga, swimming, running and strength training are all great forms of exercise for pregnant women.

Is there a link between exercise and the mental wellbeing of both mother and baby?

Several studies have shown that women who exercise during pregnancy tend to have less problems with ante and post-natal depression. There is also some interesting work being done looking at the potential positive effects of maternal exercise on a baby’s brain development.

How can exercise help the mother to be manage her weight?

Women who exercise during pregnancy tend to gain less weight than those who don’t. In fact a programme of exercise decreases the risk of developing gestational diabetes by as much as 30% compared to those who remain inactive.

Can you diet while pregnant if you are an overweight mother to be?

I am not a fan of dieting while pregnant. Pregnancy is an important time to stick to a healthy well balanced diet to ensure that the unborn baby gets all the nutrients he or she needs. If you are planning a pregnancy however and are overweight, getting to a healthy weight before conception, will improve fertility and reduce the risk of complications during pregnancy.

If a mother is overweight- will her child be too?

Carrying excess weight during pregnancy can increase the risk of gestational diabetes and larger babies.

What other risks are there to the baby if the mother is overweight?

An overweight mother has an increased risk of miscarriage and even stillbirth. She is also more likely to have a bigger baby which increases the risk of an interventional delivery or caesarean section.

How do pelvic floor exercises help a mother to be during labour?

You really can’t start pelvic floor exercises early enough. Women who do pelvic floor exercises during pregnancy tend to have easier labours.

What is next for you?

It’s a busy year! I have my new book coming out on March 22nd. It is called “Live Well to 101” and is definitely my favourite book yet. There are various TV projects at negotiation stage which I’m not allowed to talk about yet and of course, there is always lots to do with the “day job”, so I’m not hanging my stethoscope up yet! 

To find out more about Aptaclub’s Active For 2 resource, visit aptaclub.co.uk/ActiveFor2 and remember to always consult your doctor before exercising during pregnancy.