"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 mommy," says high-risk pregnancy expert Laura Riley M.D., spokeswoman for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and author of Pregnancy: You and Your Baby.
What are the benefits to exercise during pregnancy?
Reduced labor times
Reduced back pain
Increased core strength - vital to labor
Reduced weight gain during pregnancy
Reduced swelling in hands and feet
Reduced chances of varicose veins
Increased speed of after baby weight loss
Increase of babies IQ
What exercises are safe during pregnancy?
One of the best types of exercise during pregnancy, especially later into the pregnancy, is water aerobics. Water has a buoyancy effect which places muscles in a relaxed, non-weight-bearing position. This allows mommy to feel relief from the extra weight she is carrying around while still getting a good work out in.
If you were exercising previous to pregnancy, you are able to continue the same workout into pregnancy. For example: according to both the ACOG and the National Academy of Sports Medicine if you were an avid runner previous to pregnancy, you can continue during pregnancy. The only suggestion is to continue as long as you feel OK. Remember as baby grows, lung capacity is greatly diminished; with this in mind, you should not try to compete with your pre-pregnancy stats. As you progress through pregnancy muscle strength and endurance are likely to diminish as well. Staying active is what is important, not if you can beat your pre-pregnancy mile time while you are 7 months pregnant.
Weight lifting, walking and aerobics are all good sources of exercise while you are pregnant. Another point to remember is that the farther along in your pregnancy you are, the more your center of gravity is thrown off. If you are doing any step aerobics, be aware of the change in your center of gravity and possibly lower the height of your step, so to prevent falling.
What if I didn't exercise previous to pregnancy, should I start now?
ABSOLUTELY! Exercise is good for you and your baby no matter when you start! The most important thing is to start out slow. Walking is one of the best ways to start exercising until you are able to talk to your doctor/trainer. "Walking just ten minutes a day is a great beginning. As you are able, gradually increase the time and speed to increase the value of the workout. Even just walking around the block is going to have important benefits," says Fleming, creator of the video Buff Moms-To-Be.
How do I know if I am doing too much?
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (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, headaches, chest pain, increased shortness of breath, dizziness or feeling faint.
These signs are all indicative of stopping exercise immediately, however it does not mean you will not be able to exercise ever again. When you consult with your doctor, explain in detail the exercise you were doing at the time, the intensity, the signs that made you stop and how you felt. Your doctor will then be able to give you advice on continuing that specific exercise or trying a new exercise that may be less taxing on your individual body.
Will exercising really help my baby?
Several recent studies have reported the virtues of staying in shape during pregnancy. A report in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology indicates that infants of active mothers have a behavioral advantage over babies of sedentary mothers. A group of 34 infants born to women who exercised during pregnancy was compared with a group of 31 babies born to sedentary mothers.
After evaluating the newborns using seven behavioral tests, researchers found that infants of active mothers differed in two key aspects: they were more alert and they were less demanding of attention, compared with infants of inactive mothers.
Clamp III JF, Lopez B, Harcar-Seveik R Neonatal behavioral profile of the offspring of women who continued to exercise regularly throughout pregnancy Am J Obstet Gynecol 1999 (Jan); 180 (1 Pt 1): 91-94