Women who exercise during pregnancy benefit
Medical research points to the fact that women who exercise regularly during pregnancy have a lower chance of gestational diabetes and weight-related hypertension. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends that an expectant mother who exercises regularly has better musculoskeletal fitness and copes better with the anatomical and physical changes of pregnancy when they are in better shape.
Before a pregnant woman begins any type of exercise regimen she should first consult with her obstetrician. Several factors must be taken into consideration before an expectant mother begins any type of exercise program, including level of physical fitness before pregnancy, overall general health, maternal age and what type of exercises she wishes to pursue.
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends pregnant women stay physically active during pregnancy, there are many healthful benefits and it is good for both mother and child. However, there are many misconceptions surrounding fitness and pregnancy, which make can make it confusing to determine what is safe and what is not safe. Prior to beginning any type of exercise program, it is first necessary for a pregnant woman to consult with her obstetrician. Some women may be prohibited from exercising during pregnancy due to a specific health condition or complication.
When is Exercise Safe? Not Safe during Pregnancy?
There are certain considerations which must be observed when a pregnant woman exercises, which include the following:
- It is important to watch the maternal heart rate during exercise: while there is not a particular “target” heart rate a pregnant woman should strive for, a woman should never exert the body to the point of feeling extreme fatigue, dizziness, faintness or pain. (Maternal heart rate should never exceed 140 beats per minute.)
- It is okay to do abdominal exercises during pregnancy: doing abdominal exercises during pregnancy works the entire body core area and strengthens the pelvis, which can help with labor and delivery and aid in the recovery process. (A woman should avoid doing any type of exercise which requires her to lie on her back after the first trimester.)
- Even if a woman has never exercised before, going for a daily walk or swimming can help a woman experiencing fatigue: a woman can start a physician approved and supervised exercise program.
- A woman can continue to run or jog during pregnancy if she feels okay and the physician approves: a woman can run or job safely right up until the time she goes into labor as long as her health permits.
- A woman should avoid doing any deep muscle or joint movements which include heavy lunges, squats and related activities: because a pregnant woman’s’ center of gravity is affected and the body is producing the relaxin hormone, the risk of injury or loss of balance is increased.
- Certain exercises which involve balance should be avoided during pregnancy.
If a woman who exercises experiences bleeding, spotting, cramping, shortness of breath, chest pain, leaking fluid from the vagina, decreased fetal movement, uterine contractions or dizziness should stop exercising and contact her obstetrician at once.
What Forms of Exercise Are Safe During Pregnancy?
There are many forms of exercise which are considered to be safe for a woman to do during pregnancy, which include:
- Kegels: contracting and releasing of the pelvic floor muscles
- Pelvic tilts
- Squats-while using a chair for support
- Low-impact aerobics
- Prenatal yoga
- Prenatal pilates
- Weight training
An example of stretching exercise:
An example of stretching exercise for women who have problems with back pain:
An example of cardio and strengthening exercise with fitness ball and dumbbells:
What Forms of Exercises Are Not Safe During Pregnancy?
The following is a list of exercises that should be avoided during pregnancy due to being unsafe and put an expectant mother at an increased risk for injuries or falling:
- Diving: can be done from a height of 3 ft. or less
- Horseback riding: could raise the risk of loss of balance and falling, can be very dangerous.
- Skating (ice or roller skating): a pregnant woman does not have a normal sense of balance and may be at an increased risk of falling or straining muscles and joints.
- Squash: can be jerky and the sudden movements can cause a pregnant woman to lose her balance and fall, particularly during the final trimester.
- Tennis: the sport is associated with back injuries and poses an increased risk of falling.
- Scuba diving: can result in a drop in blood pressure or oxygen and be dangerous to an expectant mother.
Who Should Not Exercise During Pregnancy?
At times, a pregnant woman will be cautioned against or prohibited from exercising during pregnancy, in order to protect her health and the health of the unborn child. The following list contains conditions in which the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology has ruled against a pregnant woman participating in an exercise program:
- Lung disease
- Heart disease
- Overweight or obese
- Uncontrolled diabetes
- Persistent bleeding in the second or third trimester
- Cervical incompetence
- When carrying a multiple pregnancy (twins, triplets, etc.) which makes the woman a high risk for preterm labor and delivery
- Preterm labor
- Placental previa or abruption (separation or rupture of the placenta)
- Rupture of the amniotic membranes
- Preeclampsia (high-blood pressure related to pregnancy)
- Chronic hypertension (high-blood pressure)
What about the Third Trimester?
During the third trimester of pregnancy most women feel heavy, bulky and uncomfortable and it may be necessary to adjust an exercise program to accommodate the personal comfort level of the mother-to-be. Many expectant mothers find gentle stretching, swimming, walking and yoga to be the most comfortable forms of exercise to do during the final trimester of pregnancy.
When exercising during the third trimester of pregnancy a woman should be aware of how she is feeling and stops before experiencing undo fatigue. Exercising to the point of physical discomfort or exhaustion should be entirely avoided and a woman needs to only do as much as she is comfortably able to do.
During pregnancy, the female body undergoes significant and phenomenal changes. Staying physically active and fit during pregnancy can be done using safe, moderate exercises which are approved by an obstetrician. Medical research has shown time and again that with regular exercise a pregnant woman can enjoy an active and uneventful pregnancy and an easier childbirth.