Exercise is great for most pregnant women, but not all exercises are appropriate. There are many different benefits to exercising while pregnant, as well as different warning signs of trouble. It's important that the mother listens to her body, to prevent overdoing it. Women who regularly exercised before they were pregnant will have little difficulty continuing their fitness routines during pregnancy, but that doesn't mean that women who didn't work out before pregnancy should miss out on reaping the benefits of physical activity now that they are expecting.
Benefits Of Exercise During Pregnancy
There are a number of benefits to exercising while pregnant. Exercise can help with many of the less than pleasant pregnancy symptoms that women often experience. Things like constipation, hemorrhoids, cramps and swelling can all be eased by the increased circulation found in cardiovascular exercise.
Exercise can also help with back pain. As pregnancy progresses, the extra weight, girth and shifting center of gravity puts a lot of strain on the lower back, so by strengthening those muscles, women can relieve some of the discomfort.
Exercise also helps with the insomnia that many women experience during pregnancy. Exercise helps relieve stress and burns off some of the excess "nesting" energy that will keep women awake at night.
Conversely, exercise also helps with fatigue during the day. Exercise provides an energy boost while strengthening muscles and the cardiovascular system so everyday tasks can be accomplished with less effort. And the earlier a woman starts the better because the increased endurance will come in handy during the long process of labor and delivery.
Exercising during pregnancy and after delivery can lift the mood and help fight off the baby blues (postpartum depression). In addition, exercise helps maintain a healthy weight during the pregnancy, which will help Mom bounce back to her pre-pregnancy shape after delivery.
Remember, pregnant women should exercise because:
- Exercise helps relieve pregnancy symptoms.
- Exercise helps boost energy during the day, and relieve insomnia at night.
- Exercise can help relieve postpartum blues.
- Exercise helps maintain healthy weight during pregnancy and helps with weight loss after.
During pregnancy, there are many types of exercise that are perfectly safe and provide numerous benefits to Mom and the baby. These include:
Any exercise that is low-impact and pose no risk of falling is fine. It's important to remember that as pregnancy progresses and the body changes, balance becomes affected by the changing center of gravity. Many activities can be modified for pregnancy, such as bicycling. During pregnancy, it's recommended that a stationary or recumbent bike be used because it reduces the risk of falling while still providing the same cardiovascular and endurance benefits.
Weight training during pregnancy is fine as long as the weight isn't too heavy. Most doctors recommend a maximum of 20-to-25 pounds.
Exercises and Activities to Avoid
During pregnancy, the safety of the baby is paramount and as such there are several activities that should be avoided during pregnancy. Some of the exercises and activities that should be avoided during pregnancy are:
- High impact aerobics
- Contact sports
- Any activity with a risk of falling such as roller blading or mountain climbing
- Exercise at high altitude
- Scuba diving
Some activities, such as running, may be safe if the woman was doing it before pregnancy, but to avoid falls on uneven pavement, she would want to switch to a treadmill and watch the speed and incline to avoid falling.
Downhill or water skiing are unsafe during pregnancy, but cross country skiing is great during pregnancy as it's a low impact way to increase endurance and enjoy the great outdoors, which will help lift mood and provide vitamin D, something many pregnant women are deficient in.
Exercise Safety Precautions
It is essential that pregnant women use caution when exercising. There are some safety precautions and warning signs to be aware of and pay attention to.
Remember while exercising:
- Start slow. If just getting started, try classes that are designed for pregnancy.
- Never exercise to the point of exhaustion. If mom can't catch her breath, baby isn't getting enough oxygen either.
- Avoid excessive heat.
- Take frequent breaks.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Wear comfortable clothes and supportive shoes.
- Avoid uneven terrain, as it can lead to falls.
If a pregnant woman experiences any of these symptoms during exercise, she should stop immediately and contact her doctor.
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Feeling overheated
- Shortness of breath that is unusual
- Muscle cramps
- Pain of any kind
- Chest pain or racing heartbeat
- Uterine contractions
- Fluid leaking from the vagina
- Vaginal bleeding
Exercise is great for expectant mothers and their babies, but Mom must always remember to be careful and listen to her body. If in doubt, she should stop, rest and contact her doctor before starting an exercise regimen while pregnant.