Experts agree that exercise during pregnancy is safe and beneficial for most pregnant women, if it is done properly. This is definitely an area to discuss with your healthcare provider at the beginning of your pregnancy.
Regular, moderate exercise during pregnancy can benefit you in many ways. It can help
|prevent constipation and varicose veins •strengthen muscles needed for delivery
|leave you in better shape after delivery
|help you feel better about yourself
The goal of exercising during pregnancy is overall good health. It will make you feel better physically, and it can give you an emotional boost.
Exercise was not always approved for a pregnant woman. In the past, doctors were concerned about the redirection of blood flow from the fetus to the pregnant woman's muscles during exercise. This does occur to a small degree, but it is not harmful to the fetus in a normal pregnancy.
Starting a Program
Some women become interested in exercising during pregnancy to help them feel better. If you've never exercised before, you must discuss it with your doctor before you begin. Pregnancy is not the time to begin a vigorous exercise program.
If you've never exercised before, walking and swimming are excellent forms of exercise. Riding a stationary bike or walking on a treadmill can also be enjoyable and beneficial.
Don't be afraid that exercise might cause you to do something to hurt your pregnancy. It's a good idea to be fit and to exercise when you're pregnant. If you're fit, you'll do better with weight gain during pregnancy, be able to do the work of labor and delivery better, and feel better sooner after the birth.
Most experts recommend reducing your exercise to 70 to 80% of your prepregnancy level. If you have problems with bleeding or cramping, or have had problem pregnancies before, you will need to modify your exercise with your doctor's advice.
Exercise and Heart Rate
During pregnancy, your heart rate is higher; you don't have to exercise as vigorously to reach your target-heart-rate range. Be careful not to stress your cardiovascular system. If your heart rate is too high, slow down but don't stop exercising completely. Continue exercising, but exercise at a more moderate rate.
If your heart rate is low, and you don't feel too winded, pick up the pace a bit, but don't overdo it. Check your pulse rate again in a few minutes to make sure you aren't overexerting. During pregnancy, check your pulse rate fairly often when you exercise. You'll be surprised at how fast your pulse can increase during a pregnancy workout.
Discuss exercise with your healthcare practitioner at your first prenatal visit. If you decide later to start or to change your exercise program, consult your physician before you begin. Some women should not exercise during pregnancy. If you experience any of the following symptoms, do not exercise during pregnancy:
|a history of an incompetent cervix, preterm labor or repeated miscarriages
|high blood pressure early in pregnancy
|diagnosed heart disease
As your pregnancy progresses and your body changes, you need to change your exercise habits. Your center of gravity changes, so you have to adapt your exercise to account for that. As your abdomen grows larger, you won't be able to do some activities comfortably. You may have to stop other activities entirely.
Feeling Out of Breath
Your growing abdomen can put a strain on your respiratory system, causing you to feel out of breath sooner than normal. When you exercise, don't work to the point that you can't talk and you have trouble breathing. This indicates you're working too strenuously; cut back on your workout.
When you're pregnant, you normally feel warmer than usual. You'l feel warmer still when you exercise, so try to avoid becoming overheated during workouts. Work out in a well-ventilated room, and drink lots of water while you exercise.
If you are used to playing a competitive sport, such as tennis, you should be able to continue to play, but expect to reduce the competition level. The point to remember is don't get carried away or overwork yourself.
Some less strenuous sports are listed below.
The best exercises during pregnancy are walking and swimming.
Most are generally considered safe for a normal, low-risk pregnancy:
|low-impact aerobics designed especially for pregnancy
|regular cycling (if you're experienced)
|jogging (if you jogged before pregnancy)
|tennis (played moderately)
|walking on a treadmill
|using a stair stepper or stair climber
|riding a recumbent bike
|using a Nordic Track® ski machine
|weight training, if you have been active in it before pregnancy
Pregnancy is a time to maintain your workout and not increase it. After the first half of the pregnancy, as the uterus enlarges, it is better not to lie flat on your back.
During pregnancy, avoid the riskier sports listed below:
|downhill skiing or cross-country skiing
|any contact sport
Aerobics classes specifically designed for pregnant women are a good choice. They concentrate on the unique needs of the pregnant woman, such as strengthening abdominal muscles and improving posture. When choosing a class, be sure the instructor has proper training and the class meets the exercise guidelines developed by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. To obtain a copy of the guidelines, write to:
ACOG Exercise Program 4021 Rosewood Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90004 Tel: (213) 383-2862
Eating and Exercise
Your nutrition needs increase during pregnancy, and you burn extra calories during exercise, so eat enough calories to ensures balanced diet. As I've already discussed, a woman of normal weight before pregnancy needs to eat between 300 and 800 extra calories a day during pregnancy. Exercising may increase your needs.
Effects of Exercise on Labor and Delivery
Exercise during pregnancy should help you have an easier time with your labor and delivery. Many believe that women who exercise during pregnancy have a shorter recovery time after birth. Exercise keeps you fit so you can get back in shape more quickly.
As always, be sure you consult with your physician before you begin any exercise program. Follow the tips below to keep you healthy and in good shape.
|Stop immediately and consult your physician if you experience any problems.
|Exercise at least 3 times a week for 20 to 30 minutes each time.
|Start your exercise routine with a 5-minute warm-up and end with a 5-minute cool-down period.
|Wear comfortable clothes that offer support, including a support bra and good athletic shoes.
|Drink plenty of water during exercise.
|Don't exercise strenuously for more than 15 to 20 minutes.
|Check your pulse rate; keep it below 140 beats a minute.
|Don't exercise in hot, humid weather.
|After 16 weeks of pregnancy, avoid exercises that require you to lie on your back.
|Never allow your body temperature to rise above 100.4F (38C).