Over the years there have been many rumors out there on whether or not it is okay to exercise while you are pregnant. Positive Health Wellness The truth is, not only is exercise beneficial to you and your baby while you are pregnant, but it is actually recommended if your pregnancy is proceeding normally and you are not experiencing any pregnancy complications. However, before you begin any exercise program, or continue with the one you were doing before you got pregnant, consult with your healthcare provider first.
Why is Exercise Important During Pregnancy?
Regular exercise for 30 minutes a day, most days of the week not only helps build strong muscles and bones, but also improves your mood, and your overall wellbeing.
“You need to be physically active during pregnancy. It has terrific benefits that are associated with a better pregnancy outcome and even shorter labors. It’s a win-win for baby and for mom,” says high-risk pregnancy expert Laura Riley, MD, spokeswoman for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and author of Pregnancy: You and Your Baby.
Other benefits include better posture, less aches and pains in your back, and less difficulty sleeping at night. Exercise also helps improve bloating, constipation, and swelling. While exercising, your body releases endorphins, a chemical in your body that reduces stress, and improves feelings of well-being. It may also help or prevent gestational diabetes.
What Exercises Are Recommended During Pregnancy?
In the past, many people believed that you did not want your heart rate to get above a certain level, while pregnant. However, research has found that there is no one “target” heart rate that’s right for every pregnant woman, and you and your doctor should determine the level of intensity you participate in. Low-impact and non-weight bearing cardiovascular activities like swimming, walking and cycling will be less strenuous on your body, and prevent undue stress on the fetus.
You may find that as your pregnancy progresses, you will tire more easily. This is related to an increase in your blood volume by almost 50% while you are pregnant, putting more strain on your heart as it compensates for the increased volume. You may also become short of breath more easily while you are pregnant. This is due to increased carbon dioxide levels in your blood because the baby’s carbon dioxide is being transferred to your blood.
What Exercises Should I Avoid During Pregnancy?
There is no defined amount of how long and how intense your workouts should be, but most healthcare providers say that if you were doing it before you were pregnant, you are safe to continue doing while you are pregnant, with a few exceptions. These include scuba diving, downhill skiing, horseback riding, are anything that is going to put you at risk of falling or injuring your abdomen.
While you are pregnant, your body produces a hormone called relaxin, which helps lubricate your joints, making labor easier. This can make you more prone to injury, due to increased deep muscle and joint movement. Just make sure you do not stretch yourself beyond your limits, to help avoid injury.
What are the Risks of Exercising During Pregnancy?
While exercising, you need to be in tune with your body, to ensure that you are not overdoing it. If you experience dizziness, spotting, nausea, cramping, or heart palpitations, you should stop immediately and contact your healthcare provider. You also need to make sure that you keep yourself well hydrated while you are exercising. Some experts recommend that you drink 1 cup of water for every 20 minutes that you exercise.
ACOG lists these warning signs to stop exercising and contact a doctor: vaginal bleeding, fluid leaking from the vagina, decreased fetal movement, uterine contractions, muscle weakness, calf swelling or pain, headache, chest pain, increased shortness of breath, dizziness, or feeling faint.
One thing you need to be careful of is overheating your body while you are pregnant, especially during the first trimester when the risk of birth defects is greater. ACOG recommends that you be able to hold a conversation while you are exercising. If you are not able to do this, you are probably pushing yourself too hard.
A study done by BBC Health on Danish women, found that women who participated in strenuous exercise early in pregnancy increased their risk of miscarriage, and those who participated in more than seven hours a week during the early stages tripled their risk of miscarriage. However, after the 18 week mark there was no link between the two. More research needs to be done first, to determine if there really is a link between exercise and miscarriage.
Exercise should be part of your daily routine while you are pregnant. Not only will you feel good, but also you will look great. Your body will also thank you later, while in labor, and after as it recovers from the birth of your baby. If you have never exercised before, start slow and gradually increase your level of intensity to a level that is comfortable for both you and your doctor.