Pregnancy is not an excuse to lay around and procrastinate beginning a regular exercise program. It is true, there are some pregnant women who should not exercise because of a specific health condition but most expectant women will benefit from being active during their pregnancy.
Regular exercise during pregnancy helps in gaining the appropriate amount of weight, maximizing fetal health and making it easier to lose the extra pounds after delivery. It frequently makes labor and delivery faster and more efficient, enabling a quicker recovery postpartum and decreases the risk of developing preeclampsia (a condition during pregnancy characterized by high blood pressure, protein in the urine, and swelling), gestational diabetes and other maternal complications. Sometimes women are concerned that exercise may harm their baby. Research has shown that with proper nutrition, exercise does not negatively affect the growth in the fetus. It does, however, prevent excess fat from being laid down by the baby and may play a role in preventing very large babies, who are at increased risk for lifelong weight problems. There has been no evidence to suggest that hyperthermia (or increased body temperature) associated with exercise poses a problem to you or the fetus. However, proper attire to prevent overheating or constriction is recommended. Pregnant women should be proactive in drinking plenty of water and wear appropriate shoes and a supportive bra.
If you have already established the habit of regular exercise before becoming pregnant, you may safely continue many of the activities that you are regularly participating in during the first half of pregnancy. Things like running, tennis, aerobics, kickboxing, Zumba and athletics are good to continue for most women. Be aware, however, that as the uterus grows, your center of balance will change, and activities and sports that require agility and balance may need to be modified or postponed until after delivery. As you (and your baby) grow, it becomes easier to lose your balance and fall and you are more likely to sustain bone or muscle injuries with activity. Frequently, this doesn’t mean you have to stop what you are doing but you may have to move more slowly and purposefully in order to prevent injuries. During the latter part of pregnancy, it is important to avoid activities that could cause a fall on your abdomen or cause any direct impact to your abdomen. These types of trauma may cause injury to the fetus or placenta. Use caution with activities requiring high altitudes, exercise that includes jumping or jarring motions, or activities that have a high risk of falling (such as water skiing, downhill skiing, or in-line skating). Scuba diving should be avoided at all times during pregnancy.
WHEN STARTING AN EXERCISE REGIMEN DURING PREGNANCY:
□ Begin with walking or some kind of moderate aerobic conditioning that you enjoy [low impact aerobics, swimming (but avoid breath-holding), rowing, elliptical machine, or cycling on a stationary bike].
□ Select an activity that allows for minimal stress on joints, as pregnancy naturally causes weight gain and therefore increased strain on the joints, tendons and ligaments. During the latter part of pregnancy, hormonal changes cause laxity in the ligaments (especially in the pelvis) to prepare the body for delivery. These changes also increase the chance of strain or injury.
□ Remember to stretch before AND after exercise to minimize muscle soreness and strain.
□ Be diligent in keeping yourself hydrated throughout your workout sessions and keep your heart rate to less than 140 beats per minute.
□ Avoid activity that requires you to be flat on your back. As the uterus grows, it may impede the blood flow back to the heart by physically applying pressure to the inferior vena cava (the major blood vessel that lies next to your backbone). If there is less blood flow to the heart, there is less blood carrying oxygen and other nutrients to the brain and fetus.
□ Motionless standing causes the blood to pool in the lower extremities, potentially causing a feeling of dizziness or lightheadedness. This will also increase the pressure on varicose veins and swelling in the feet and lower legs.
IDEAL FREQUENCY OF EXERCISE:
Cardiovascular or aerobic exercise should be done at least three days per week for a minimum of 20 to 30 minutes per day. Ideally, you will work up to 45 to 60 minutes on most days of the week. Don’t exhaust yourself. While doing cardio, aim for an intensity such that you could have a conversation but would probably choose not to. Brisk walking is a great form of cardiovascular exercise. A pedometer provides a fun and helpful way to measure your goal. Aim to get at least 10,000 steps per day.
Strength or Resistance Training should be done at least two to three days per week for 30 to 45 minutes.
For all women: Consult your provider before commencing a new exercise program if you have heart, lung, kidney or liver disease, diabetes, chest pain, specific joint or muscle pain, problems with dizziness or balance, are over 40 or for any uncontrolled chronic condition.
For pregnant women: Consult your provider first if you have any of the above chronic conditions or special circumstances with pregnancy that may limit your activity, such as spotting or bleeding, threatened or recurrent miscarriage, weak cervix, premature labor or preterm birth or a low-lying placenta.
More on exercise – click to see post from March 2016
Kristen Wright, FNP
Canyon View Women’s Care