By Amy Schmidt, MD – Obstetrician/Gynecologist
Exercise is an important component of a healthy lifestyle. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity (enough to raise your heart rate) most days of the week. The goal is to achieve at least 150 minutes per week of aerobic activity. As well as muscle-strengthening activities at least 2 days per week. As a general rule, this applies to pregnant women, as well.
Maintaining a regular exercise routine throughout your pregnancy can help you stay healthy and feel your best. Here are some of the benefits:
- Exercise can improve energy, mood, and posture.
- Exercise can help improve sleep.
- Exercise may help to prevent gestational diabetes and hypertension; and if gestational diabetes does occur, exercise may help to decrease the likelihood of needing medication for treatment.
- Exercise can also help to minimize or prevent common pregnancy-related issues such as back pain, constipation, and swelling.
- Keeping fit throughout pregnancy may also help with your labor experience and may make it easier to get back into shape after your baby is born.
- Higher incidences of vaginal delivery and lower incidence of cesarean & operative vaginal delivery (i.e forceps/vacuum)
What Types of Exercise Are Best
In general, whatever activity level you were at before pregnancy is safe to continue throughout pregnancy. You may find that you need to modify your routines, particularly as your pregnancy progresses; but if, for example, you were a runner before pregnancy, you will likely be able to continue running during pregnancy. If you didn’t exercise regularly prior to pregnancy, it is still recommended that you get regular, aerobic exercise throughout pregnancy. Walking, swimming and cycling are great aerobic activities that are safe, even for beginners. Yoga is a good workout for strength and flexibility but avoids Bikram and other forms of hot yoga while you’re pregnant.
There are some activities, however, that should be avoided during pregnancy. Activities with a high likelihood of falling or being hit in the abdomen should be avoided. This includes activities such as downhill or water skiing, horseback riding and contact sports. Also, any exercises that involve lying flat on your back should be avoided after the first trimester.
Listen to Your Body
Pregnancy-related changes in hormones cause relaxation of ligaments and increased mobility of joints. Also, the distribution of weight gain during pregnancy changes your center of gravity. The combination of these changes can increase your risk of injury and falling during pregnancy. It is important to be aware of these changes and to pay attention to your body. You will want to avoid any sudden changes in direction or jarring movements. As pregnancy progresses, you may also find that it is necessary to modify the intensity of your workouts.
When you are exercising, it is important to wear comfortable clothing and shoes with good support. Make sure you are drinking plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated and to prevent overheating. On hot summer days, plan ahead so you can exercise in the cool of the morning or evening, or find a gym that has air conditioning. It is also important to make sure you are consuming adequate calories.
If you start to feel lightheaded or dizzy, have chest pain or shortness of breath, experience vaginal bleeding, persistent contractions or leaking of fluid from the vagina, you should stop exercising and contact your OB/GYN doctor.
Although there are many benefits to regular workouts during pregnancy, exercise is not appropriate for all pregnancies. Some women who are at high risk for preterm delivery or have significant medical issues complicating their pregnancy should not engage in aerobic exercise. Always consult with your doctor before beginning any new exercise program. In most cases, you can and should exercise during pregnancy. It’s good for you and your baby!
For questions and concerns during your pregnancy, make an appointment with your Women’s Health Specialists OB/GYN today.