Exercising during pregnancy benefits you and your baby

Through every stage of pregnancy, your health matters. For the longest time, there was a generational gap of knowledge in the medical profession about what is and isn’t healthy for expecting mothers. The old train of thought that she should rest as much as possible and eat whatever she desires is wrong.

Over the years, pregnancy has become a major contributor to the obesity epidemic in this country, without exception. The additional weight gain is detrimental to both mother and child, especially for those who were already overweight or obese before pregnancy. The added weight can lead to birth defects in their child, gestational diabetes and hypertension.

But this newer generation of doctors is introducing an era of fitness for expecting mothers. There are few reasons that behavioral modification can’t start during pregnancy. Depending on your level of activity prior to pregnancy, simply developing a walking regimen can be highly beneficial. In the absence of a pre-existing condition (check with your obstetrician), the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends at least 30 minutes of physical activity daily.

Early on in the pregnancy, work on your core and back muscles. Strengthening those muscles helps mothers control the additional weight and body changes of late-term pregnancy. It can also help cope with labor pains.

But its important to always be aware of and listen to your body. Its changing, and you have to be aware of those changes at all times to avoid complications. Early on in the pregnancy, the fetus is forming organs. Its imperative that mothers maintain the body’s core temperature keeping it under 102 degrees Fahrenheit or risk serious injury to the baby. So its best to avoid activities that will overheat the body like marathon running or long-distance cycling.

As the pregnancy progresses, the body’s center of gravity shifts, creating a curvature in the lower back that results in back pain for roughly 60% of expecting mothers. Because of that, any exercise involving heavy weightlifting should be limited to lighter weights.

Lying on your back can cause the uterus to pinch the blood vessels on the spine, restricting blood flow. In 10 percent to 15 percent of patients, this can cause low blood pressure. So exercises that require you to lie on your back should be avoided or done minimally during the second half of pregnancy.

For women who are already obese, overweight or facing any health-related issues, take this time to get healthy for you and your baby. There’s no better time to start.

Easy Pregnancy Exercises

From the early stages to the last few weeks, here are a few exercises to help your body adjust to its ever-changing needs. Please note, its important to talk with your physician before exercising. It’s also recommended that you avoid wearing tight clothing, performing jerking motions or lying on your back for extended periods of time.

Yoga
A great way to relieve stress and pressure on your body, most forms of yoga are safe for you and your baby. Many instructors offer special classes for pregnant women.

Swimming
One of the safest ways to exercise while pregnant, swimming helps keep your body toned and provides good cardio, all without adding weight and stress on your joints.

Walking
Easy to fit into your schedule and easy on your knees, walking provides great exercise. But don’t overdo it. Set realistic goals and wear good shoes to protect your feet and reduce the risk of falling.

Kegel exercises
Strengthening these muscles can help with an easier birthing, promotes perineal healing, bladder control and can be done anywhere and no one knows you’re doing them.

Stationary bicycling
This is a great cardio workout that puts less stress on your body than running or jogging. As your pregnancy progresses, your center of gravity will shift and can increase your risk of falling off a regular bicycle.

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Raul Artal, M.D., is the professor and chairman emeritus, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and Women’s Health Profession at the Saint Louis University School of Medicine, and the editor of ACOGs clinical updates in Women’s Health Care.