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Pregnancy Fitness and Exercise

Getting and Staying Healthy for Baby

By

Mother leaning on birth ball
Photo © iStockPhoto

Exercise is a great way to stay in shape and feel super. Pregnancy does not change this for most women. Despite the differences in your body, exercise is still important. Some studies have suggested that exercise during pregnancy will help with an easier and shorter labor and birth, fewer cesarean surgeries, a quicker recovery postpartum, a quicker return to your pre-pregnancy weight, not to mention a healthier feeling pregnancy.

When you might need special attention or limited exercise

What is your current level of fitness?

One of the things that you need to determine before you get started is where you are fitness wise. If you have previously been a couch potato this is not the time to take up most sports. If you have been very active before and are participating in an activity that is safe for pregnancy or can be modified for pregnancy, generally you can continue to participate. However, most women are not able to maintain the same pace that they did before the pregnancy, so keep that in mind.

;If you previously were a couch potato this is not the time to take up a new sport. However, all is not lost. There are several exercises that you can do while pregnant, even if you were previously sedentary. These would generally be walking, swimming, and specialized pregnancy aerobics. The key, as with any exercise in pregnancy, is to take it relatively easy and to listen to your body.

Planning for the occasion

So, now that you've decided to exercise what comes next? First of all you want to exercise on a regular basis. This is what will give you the most benefit. When you exercises you need to make sure that you warm up and cool down, have plenty of water available, and are cleared by your care provider. Dressing appropriately is very important. This means you should wear loose fitting, comfortable clothing, non-skid shoes that are supportive, and a decent bra, preferably a sports bra. If you are large breasted consider wearing a maternity/nursing bra under a sports bra for added support.

Know your limits

Now that we've convinced you that this is a great idea, what are your limitations during pregnancy? Again, let me emphasize that you should discuss this with your practitioner, they can give you information specific to your pregnancy. You should strive for the following

Watch your center of gravity

After the fourth month it changes and you can quickly find yourself off balance. While your baby is very well protected by the amniotic sac should a fall occur, the best protection is prevention!

Stay off your back

After the fourth month your uterus has grown out of your pelvis and the weight of it, when you are on your back, can depress the vena cava. This reduces the amount of blood flow, and therefore oxygen, to your baby. Most women will find that they will also become dizzy or light-headed if they lie on their backs. This is something that should always be avoided, not just during exercise.

No bouncing or jerking

Bouncing exercises are not great for your joints or bones at any point, but especially during pregnancy. Your body produces a hormone called relaxin that actually softens the ligaments allowing your bones to spread for the birth of your baby. This is a great thing, although it does predispose you for a higher risk of injury when doing bouncing or jerking motions.

Don't over do it

This includes overheating. Raising your core temperature too much can affect the baby adversely. Always drink water before, during and after exercising. Listening to your body when something hurts or doesn't feel right, that means stop!

Stop Signs

  • Dizziness
  • Faintness
  • Headaches
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Uterine contractions
  • Vaginal Bleeding or fluid leaking
  • Heart Palpitations

Heart rates

Generally we tell women that they should keep their heart rate under 140 beats per minute. However, for some women this may be too high and others, too low. So, the easiest way to do this is what is called the talk test. Simply put, if you are too winded while exercising to carry on a conversation, you are doing too much.

When Can I start back after my birth?

Generally this will be about four to six weeks postpartum for a vaginal birth and six to eight weeks for a surgical birth. Again, talk to your practitioner about returning to exercise. There are also special exercises, like kegeling, that can be started immediately after the birth.

Exercise should make you feel better during pregnancy (and life!). Remember to find a sport or exercise that suits you well.

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