“Hey, let’s move!” Claudia was sure her developing baby was egging her on to exercise, but she felt nauseous, tired, had swollen ankles, and was worried about her baby’s safety.
Claudia, listen to your fetus because nowadays professionals recommend that pregnancy is not an excuse to let yourself go. Exercise while expecting, benefits you physically, emotionally and mentally, during and after pregnancy.
Research shows that regular exercise during pregnancy can do everything from improving the health of the baby to easing the delivery for the mom-to-be. The most recent Clinical Practice Guidelines encourage women — with no health problems and low-risk uncomplicated pregnancies — to do regular moderate intensity level exercise during pregnancy.
They should do this for 30 minutes or more on most if not all days of the week. Even regular gym goers or athletes are advised to continue their pre-pregnancy activities through the 1st trimester — and then take it down a notch or two.
But, since everybody’s activity level and type is unique, whatever fitness routine you decide, it is essential to do it in consultation with your ObGyn.
What Kinds of Exercise Do Doctors Recommend for Pregnant Women?
Dr. Nigel Spier, an OBGYN in south Florida for over 20 years, supports the new attitudes today on exercise during pregnancy. “Very few don’t exercise,” he explains.
“Studies looking at marathon runners while monitoring fetal heart rhythms and responses are very reassuring of fetal recovery. There are no hard limits in exercise. Women feel better, have better circulation, shorter pushing times, shorter delivery times, faster recovery.” His recommendations for pregnant women:
- Be prepared at all times with hydration and nutrition, or to stop and rest.
- Snacks are important before and after exercising.
- Watch for overheating.
- Avoid exercise that may involve abdominal straining since the muscles are more lax, weaker, and prone to muscle injury or hernia — supplement crunches and the like with a side position.
- After 20 weeks, avoid lying flat on the back, use a tilted position or limit flat back positions to 10 minutes.
- After a normal delivery, iron tends to be low so women will reach limits faster. Regain full exercise routines slowly. With C-section, it is prudent to wait 6 weeks for an exercise program. Walking, of course, is fine.
Other OBGYNs would agree and expand a list of do’s and don’t s in your exercise program:
- A warm up and cool down with each exercise session should include range of motion exercises for the major joints and static stretching for muscle groups.
- Your heart rate is higher during pregnancy so give yourself extra time to return to a normal resting rate.
- Stop exercising and/or contact your doctor if you have dizziness, preterm labor, vaginal bleeding or leaking, cramping or contractions, chest pain, or extra shortness of breath.
- Avoid contact and impact sports and activities where you can risk falling such as bicycling, horseback riding, skiing, rock climbing,
- Swimming and water aerobics are ideal because water makes you feel about 90% lighter, water resistance tones and strengthens muscles, can help to rid of extra fluids.
- Yoga and its deep breathing exercises can relax and help with centering and balance, toning and muscle strengthening.
- Do not push through pain or exhaustion. While you exercise your movements need to feel “right.” Stop if they do not and change the exercise.
- Take breaks when you need to sip water, stretch, empty your bladder.
- Focus on breathing, not endurance. You should be able to carry on a conversation. Movements that can make you strain and hold your breath should be avoided.
So the next time you feel that little gal or guy kicking, he or she is probably telling you to get moving! Its good advice for both of you.