By Karen B. Simon, M.D.
Pregnancy may seem like the perfect opportunity to relax and cut down or even avoid exercise, especially when you take fatigue, back aches, and swollen ankles and feet into consideration. However, exercising during your pregnancy can be good for both you and baby.
Being physically active during pregnancy has incredible benefits linked with a better pregnancy and shorter labor. Exercising while pregnant can ease or prevent back pain and other discomforts, help you sleep better, boost your mood and energy level, prevent excess weight gain, and increase your stamina and muscle strength, which will come in handy when you go into labor.
Additionally, exercising during pregnancy may also reduce your risk of gestational diabetes and pregnancy-related high blood pressure. It also may lessen the symptoms of postpartum depression, and there’s some indication that it might reduce the risk of fetal macrosomia, which is when a baby is born significantly larger than average.
Talk to Your Doctor
Although exercise during pregnancy is generally a good idea, you should talk to your doctor to ensure it’s safe and healthy for you and your baby – your doctor may advise you not to exercise if you have serious complications or are at risk of serious complications such as pregnancy-related high blood pressure, cervical problems, vaginal bleeding, preterm labor or risk factors for it, or a multiple pregnancy at risk of preterm labor.
If you exercised before pregnancy, you’re feeling comfortable and get the ok from your doctor, you can likely continue to work out at the same level while you’re pregnant.
If your doctor says you can exercise while you’re pregnant, but haven’t done it for a while, pace yourself. Try beginning with five minutes of physical activity per day and build up to 10 minutes, 15 minutes and more until you reach 30 minutes a day.
Don’t Push Yourself Too Hard
In general, it’s recommended that most pregnant women get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most, if not all, days of the week.
Don’t just jump right into your workout, warming up and cooling down before and after will prep your body for the workout and reduce your risk of injury. While exercising, make sure you’re drinking plenty of fluids and be careful to avoid overheating.
A good rule to follow is to be able to carry on a conversation during your workout. If you can’t speak normally while you’re exercising, you may be pushing yourself too hard. Similarly, it’s important to listen to your body to watch for danger signs. If you experience vaginal bleeding, stop exercising and call your doctor.
If you’re a beginner, try walking – it’s a great form of exercise that provides you with moderate aerobic conditioning with minimal stress on your joints. You can also try swimming, low-impact aerobics and cycling on a stationary bike. You can also strength train as long as you avoid lifting very heavy weights.
Additionally, trying a prenatal yoga class at a nearby studio or on a DVD at home can help you relax and stay fit. Prenatal yoga focuses on stretching, mental centering, and breathing, which can increase your strength, flexibility and endurance of the muscles needed for childbirth. Prenatal yoga has also been credited with improved sleep, reduced stress and anxiety, and easing lower back pain, headaches, nausea, carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms, and shortness of breath.
Exercising regularly can not only help you cope with the physical changes you’re going through during pregnancy, but it can also build up your stamina for challenges ahead. If you haven’t been exercising regularly, pregnancy may be the motivation you need – the more active and fit you are during pregnancy, the easier it will be for you to adapt to your changing body, cope with your labor and get back to your pre-pregnancy body after the birth.
About the Author
Dr. Simon specializes in Obstetrics and Gynecology (OB/GYN). She attempts to help patients become educated about their health and treatment options before they make decisions together.
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Simon, please call 610-872-7660.