Exercise During Pregnancy
Regular exercise builds bones and muscles, gives you energy, and keeps you healthy. It is just as important when you are pregnant. This pamphlet will explain:
You're tired. You're gaining weight. You may not feel your best. Although most of the time these symptoms are normal during pregnancy, exercise may help provide some relief. Becoming active and exercising at least 30 minutes on most, if not all, days of the week can benefit your health in the following ways:
Regular activity also helps keep you fit during pregnancy and may improve your ability to cope with the pain of labor. This will make it easier for you to get back in shape after the baby is born. You should not, however, exercise to lose weight while you are pregnant.
Changes in Your Body
Pregnancy causes many changes in your body. Some of these changes will affect your ability to exercise.
The hormones produced during pregnancy cause the ligaments that support your joints to become relaxed. This makes the joints more mobile and more at risk of injury. Avoid jerky, bouncy, or high-impact motions that can increase your risk of injury.
Remember that during pregnancy you are carrying extra pounds—as much as 25–40 pounds at the end of pregnancy. The extra weight in the front of your body shifts your center of gravity and places stress on joints and muscles, especially those in the pelvis and lower back. This can make you less stable, cause back pain, and make you more likely to lose your balance and fall, especially in later pregnancy.
The extra weight you are carrying will make your body work harder than before you were pregnant. Exercise increases the flow of oxygen and blood to the muscles being worked and away from other parts of your body. So, it's important not to overdo it.
Try to exercise moderately so you don't get tired quickly. If you are able to talk normally while exercising, your heart rate is at an acceptable level.
Before beginning your exercise program, talk with your doctor to make sure you do not have any obstetric or health condition that would limit your activity. Ask about any specific exercises or sports that interest you. Your doctor can offer advice about what type of exercise routine is best for you.
Women with one of the following conditions will be advised by their doctors not to exercise during pregnancy:
Choosing Safe Exercises
Most forms of exercise are safe during pregnancy. However, some types of exercise involve positions and movements that may be uncomfortable, tiring, or harmful for pregnant women. For instance, after the first trimester of pregnancy, women should not do exercises that require them to lie flat on their backs. Standing still for long periods of time also should be avoided as much as possible.
Certain sports are safe during pregnancy, even for beginners:
Exercise during pregnancy is most practical during the first 24 weeks. During the last 3 months, it can be difficult to do many exercises that once seemed easy. This is normal.
If it has been some time since you've exercised, it is a good idea to start slowly. Begin with as little as 5 minutes of exercise a day and add 5 minutes each week until you can stay active for 30 minutes a day.
Always begin each exercise session with a warm-up period for 5–10 minutes. This is light activity, such as slow walking, that prepares your muscles. During the warm up, stretch your muscles to avoid stiffness and soreness. Hold each stretch for at least 10–20 seconds.
After exercising, cool down by slowly reducing your activity. This allows your heart rate to return to normal levels. Cooling down for 5–10 minutes and stretching again also helps you to avoid sore muscles.
Things to Watch
The changes your body is going through can make certain positions and activities risky for you and your baby. While exercising, try to avoid activities that call for jumping, jarring motions or quick changes in direction that may strain your joints and cause injury.
When you exercise, follow these general guidelines for a safe and healthy exercise program:
After the Baby's Born
Having a baby and taking care of a newborn is hard work. It will take a while to regain your strength after the strain of pregnancy and childbirth. Taking care of yourself physically and allowing your body time to recover is important. If you had a cesarean delivery, difficult childbirth, or complications, your recovery time may be longer. Check with your doctor before starting or resuming an exercise program. Some women may resume their routine within days of giving birth; others may need more time before resuming their prepregnancy routine.
Walking is a good way to get back into exercising. Brisk walks several times a week will prepare you for more strenuous exercise when you feel up to it. Walking has the added advantage of getting both you and the baby out of the house for exercise and fresh air. As you feel stronger, consider more vigorous exercise.
You will want to pick an exercise program that meets your own needs. Your doctor, nurse, or community center can help. There are also special postpartum exercise classes that you can join.
Exercise during pregnancy can help prepare you for labor and childbirth. Exercising afterward can help get you back in shape. Before you begin an exercise program, talk to your doctor. Follow this guide to help maintain a safe and healthy exercise program during pregnancy.
Cesarean Delivery: Delivery of a baby through an incision made in the mother's abdomen and uterus.
Gestational Diabetes: Diabetes that arises during pregnancy; it results from the effects of hormones and usually subsides after delivery.
Premature Rupture of Membranes: A condition in which the membranes that hold the amniotic fluid rupture before labor.