If you’re pregnant, you may be wondering if you should start or continue exercising. The answer is a resounding, yes!
Regular exercise throughout your pregnancy can help you stay healthy, improve your posture and help decrease common discomforts such as backaches and fatigue.
There is even evidence that physical activity may help prevent gestational diabetes, relieve stress and build more stamina needed for labor and delivery.
All of these benefits are good things.
If you were physically active before your pregnancy, there’s no need to stop. However, don’t try to exercise at your former level; instead, do what's most comfortable for you now. Low impact aerobics are encouraged versus high impact.
Check with your obstetrician for guidance if you are a competitive athlete, you may need specialized monitoring.
What if you have never been into exercise, should you start now that you are pregnant? Absolutely!
You can safely begin an exercise program during pregnancy after consulting with your health care provider, but do not try a new, strenuous activity. Walking is considered safe to initiate when pregnant.
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends 30 minutes or more of moderate exercise per day on most if not all days of the week, unless you have a medical or pregnancy complication.
While exercise is great for most moms-to-be, there are some women who should not exercise during pregnancy. They are women with medical problems such as asthma, heart disease or diabetes. If you have one of these conditions, check with your OB/GYN about your options and follow his or her recommendations.
Exercise may also be harmful if you have a pregnancy-related condition such as:
· Bleeding or spotting
· Low placenta
· Threatened or recurrent miscarriage
· Previous premature births or history of early labor
· Weak cervix
Talk with your health care provider before beginning an exercise program. Your health care provider can also give you personal exercise guidelines, based on your medical history.
Most exercises are safe to perform during pregnancy as long as you don’t overdo it.
The safest and most productive activities are swimming, brisk walking, indoor stationary cycling, step or elliptical machines, and low-impact aerobics (taught by a certified aerobics instructor). These activities carry little risk of injury, benefit your entire body, and can be continued until birth.
What about jogging, tennis and racquetball? All these activities require balance and coordination– which may change as you progress during your pregnancy. If you’re healthy and have discussed these sports with your OB/GYN, go ahead and enjoy, but in moderation.
There are certain exercises that can be harmful during pregnancy. What exercises should be avoided? They are:
· Holding your breath during any activity.
· Activities where falling is likely (such as skiing and horseback riding).
· Contact sports such as softball, football, basketball, and volleyball.
· Any exercise that may cause even mild abdominal trauma such as activities that include jarring motions or rapid changes in direction.
· Activities that require extensive jumping, hopping, skipping, bouncing, or running.
· Deep knee bends, full sit-ups, double leg raises, and straight-leg toe touches.
· Bouncing while stretching.
· Waist-twisting movements while standing.
· Heavy exercise spurts followed by long periods of no activity.
· Exercise in hot, humid weather.
Stretching exercises can help make the muscles limber and warm, which can be helpful during pregnancy.
Kegal exercises can help strengthen the muscles that support the bladder, uterus and bowels. By strengthening these muscles during your pregnancy, you can develop the ability to relax and control the muscles in preparation for labor and birth.
Tailor exercises strengthen the pelvic, hip, and thigh muscles and can help relieve low back pain.
Many health providers have DVDs, websites or exercise pamphlets with instructions and examples available for their pregnant patients. There are also classes with instructors trained in leading exercise programs specifically for pregnant women.
What should a pregnancy program consist of?
A total fitness program should strengthen and condition your muscles. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water and never exercise to the point of exhaustion.
Exercising during pregnancy has many advantages, but there are warning signals you should look out for. Stop exercising immediately and contact your health provider is you:
· Feel chest pain.
· Have abdominal pain, pelvic pain, or persistent contractions.
· Have a headache.
· Notice an absence or decrease in fetal movement.
· Feel faint, dizzy, nauseous, or light-headed.
· Feel cold or clammy.
· Have vaginal bleeding.
· Have a sudden gush of fluid from the vagina, or a trickle of fluid that leaks steadily.
· Notice an irregular or rapid heartbeat.
· Have sudden swelling in your ankles, hands, face, or calf pain.
· Are short of breath.
· Have difficulty walking.
· Have muscle weakness.
The big question many women have after delivery is – when can I start working off these extra pounds? It’s best to start fitness routines gradually and follow your health provider’s recommendations. Too often, women who have just given birth are inundated with images of celebrities who look as though they have dropped 50 pounds and returned to their former sleek selves within weeks after delivery. However they accomplish this (think spandex & a personal trainer that works you relentlessly), it’s not necessary or even healthy to try to capture your former body immediately.
Most women can safely perform a low-impact activity one to two weeks after a vaginal birth (or three to four weeks after a cesarean birth). Do about half of your normal floor exercises and don't try to overdo it.
Exercising during pregnancy is not a “one routine fits all” kind of thing. You can strengthen your muscles and reap the benefits of exercise while pregnant, just do it under the guidance of your health provider. He or she knows your limits, your medical history and will be able to help you achieve the best results.
Traci C. Johnson, MD, http://www.webmd.com/baby/guide/exercise-during-pregnancy.