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Exercise and Pregnancy
Northwest Women's Consultants
Now that you are pregnant, it is important to understand the role that exercise plays to benefit your health as well as that of your unborn child.
For most pregnant patients, exercise is safe and is encouraged throughout each trimester of your pregnancy.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend an exercise regimen during pregnancy to include 30 minutes or more of moderate exercise a day, in most if not all, days of the week.
It is recognized and understood that certain medical and obstetric conditions may limit this recommendation, and you are encouraged to discuss your individual concerns with your doctor prior to or immediately after finding out you are pregnant.
Proven benefits to an exercise plan during pregnancy include: lowering your risks of gestational diabetes, hypertension, excessive weight gain, postpartum blues or depression, and insomnia. Studies also demonstrate that an established exercise plan during pregnancy may lower your risk for a cesarean section delivery.
Exercise during pregnancy boosts energy and moods, allows for improved sleep, reduces back and body aches, and increases stamina and muscle strength in preparation for childbirth and postpartum recovery.
If you have been participating in a regular exercise regimen prior to pregnancy, you will want to continue your active lifestyle during pregnancy. If you have been more sedentary or putting off establishing an exercise routine, or carry extra weight when you become pregnant, now is an ideal time to begin developing a habit of regular exercise. Developing an exercise routine during pregnancy and continuing it after you have delivered your baby will provide you with a life long habit that will provide you many health benefits as you raise your family.
A prenatal exercise plan is also very beneficial to the health of your child before and after delivery. Medical studies report that those who exercise during pregnancy lower the risk of fetal macrosomia (a large baby), and lower the risks of obesity, diabetes, and elevated lipid profiles for their offspring.
Maintaining a healthy exercise plan after delivery will encourage your offspring to learn the benefits of exercise as they grow through childhood and into adulthood.
Animal studies consistently show that exercise during pregnancy improves spatial learning, short term memory, and improved production of central nervous system (CNS) growth factors that support healthy brain development.
Many types of exercises are safe during pregnancy. Walking is encouraged as it doesn’t jar the knee and ankle joints. Swimming provides cardiovascular benefits and can avoid joint strains as well. Stationary bikes, elliptical machines, and gentle stair climbing are other pregnancy exercise options to consider.
As your pregnancy progresses, the hormones of pregnancy will loosen your body’s joints. Additionally, shifts in your center of gravity and postural changes occcur as your body grows and adds weight from you growing unborn baby. Maintaining muscle tone and flexibilty improves balance as these changes happen, thus, lessening your chance of injuring yourself from a fall.
Low impact aerobics will strengthen your heart and improve muscle tone. Yoga and dancing activities will maintain muscle tone and joint flexibility as well.
Strength training while avoiding lifting heavy weights will benefit your muscles and joints, too. You will increase your strength and stamina for the birth process and ease your recovery after delivery.
Avoid activities where there is a risk of falling, injury of trauma to the abdomen (especially in the second and third trimester), or injuring yourself from contact with others. This may include such activities as horseback riding, downhill skiing, mountain biking, tennis, racquetball, football, softball, volleyball, and basketball. Scuba diving is not recommended at any time during pregnancy due to fetal risks of decompression syndrome.
During pregnancy you should avoid bouncing while stretching to minimize over extending your loosening joints. You should stop your exercise activity if you experience chest pain, shortness of breath, pelvic cramping, contractions, decreased fetal movements, ruptured membranes, vaginal bleeding, calf pain or swelling, dizziness, or persistent headache. Notify your doctor if any of these symptoms occur.
Stay well hydrated and drink plenty of water before, during and after exercising. Take 5-10 minutes to warm up and stretch prior to exercising so as not to strain muscles or ligaments or to overextend your joints.
You should maintain a heart rate less than 140 beats per minute and avoid exercising to the point that you are unable to speak in a normal voice. Avoiding prolonged standing without moving, deep knee bends, holding your breath while exercising, full sit ups, or lying completely flat on your back. These maneuvers may create a low blood pressure and make you feel ill.
There are medical and obstetric conditions where limited exercise is advised. These include a variety of conditions such as a prior history of heart or lung disease, a weak or shortened cervix, a history of uncontrolled medical conditions such diabetes, thyroid illness, or severe anemia. It you have risk factors for premature labor based on your obstetric history or a current obstetric situation such as preterm labor, a multifetal gestation, ruptured membranes, or poor fetal growth, your doctor will advise you to limit exercise.
You should discuss any medical or obstetric concerns regarding exercise with your doctor throughout all phases of your pregnancy. This will help you and your doctor plan the safest exercise options for you and your unborn child.
So, enjoy your pregnancy and plan to exercise with confidence. Talk to one of our doctors and find out the best exercise plan to further your health and that of your baby.