When you first learn that you are pregnant, hundreds of questions come to mind about how to maintain a healthy pregnancy. Some of these questions relate to the safety, types and frequency of exercise permitted during pregnancy.
Most obstetricians follow the guideline that if you were active prior to your pregnancy, you may continue such activities while pregnant. This rule of thumb applies so long as your pregnancy is complication free. Your OB doctor will also likely mention that if any of these activities begin to cause you discomfort, you should stop doing them. Modifications are key. There will be plenty of time to get back in to the hard core stuff after your delivery. These next 40 weeks aren’t the time to strive for weight loss. Be sure to discuss any plans for a new exercise regime with your obstetrician. They may have some great advice on how to implement something new and can provide insight for any exercise styles that should be delayed until after giving birth. If you have a high-risk pregnancy or are at risk for pre term labor, exercise should be closely monitored.
While you aren’t trying to lose weight, you can aim to strengthen your body for your delivery. The muscles that you keep healthy now will help you through labor and delivery and, BONUS ALERT, they will even help you to shed some of the baby weight after birth. Let’s not get too hung up on losing baby weight, though. There should be more focus on just how amazing your body is; you just created life!
Some of the studied health benefits of exercise during pregnancy include, reducing back pain, reducing swelling, mood improvement, an increase in energy, and improved sleep patterns. Exercise during pregnancy can even help prevent gestational diabetes. A connection people often don’t make is that exercise improves circulation, which in turn aides in avoiding constipation, hemorrhoids, varicose veins, and leg cramps!
At your initial OB appointment, your doctor will go over a great deal of information with you. One of the topics of conversation will likely be what your expected weight gain should be. For women with BMIs within a normal range, the recommended weight gain during pregnancy should be 25-35 pounds. Exercising during pregnancy will help you to keep on track with this goal.
This next bit is for the over achievers. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to discuss your fitness plans with your obstetrician. Here’s why: During exercise, blood flow shifts away from your uterus to help support your hard working muscles and lungs. If you exercise too strenuously, you may restrict the oxygenated blood flow to your baby. In other words, let’s keep that heart rate in check so that baby can benefit from your workout too! Talk to your healthcare provider for guidelines on what is a safe exercise heartrate to maintain during pregnancy.
Two other important considerations when it comes to exercise during pregnancy are balance and body temperature. It’s no surprise that the further you get in to pregnancy, the bigger your baby and therefore your belly will be. Avoid activities like bike riding that may put you at an increased risk for falling. We are in the home stretch here people! Something else that is easily forgotten about during pregnancy is body temperature. Be careful when working out in hot conditions. Your body temperature should stay below 101 degrees Fahrenheit. An increase in your body temperature can negatively affect your baby’s development!
Thus far we have discussed many of the positive effects moms benefit from when they exercise during pregnancy. Recent research has shown that exercise during pregnancy benefits the baby on board too!
“A 2013 study published by researchers at the University of Montreal compared the cognitive development of two groups of babies. One half was born to moms who had at least 20 minutes of moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise (think: walking or jogging) three days each week; the other, to moms who were sedentary. The researchers compared how the brains of both sets of babies responded to sound at one month of age, which is a measure of cognitive development. They found that babies born to the exercising mothers had more mature brain function – more advanced brains – than those born to the less active moms.”
In addition improving cognitive activity, studies have also shown that mom’s who exercise during pregnancy give birth to babies with healthier birth weights and better heart health! Two for one special! Who knew that maintaining a healthy exercise routine during pregnancy would actually give your baby a healthier start to his or her life?!
Exercise during pregnancy has proven to be beneficial for both mom and baby and is likely to be encouraged in some way by your obstetrician. No matter what your current activity level is, it’s best to mention your plans or interest in exercise to your doctor so they can provide guidance for what is safest during your specific pregnancy.
Whether you’re walking, running, weight-training or otherwise, we wish you the best on your pregnancy journey <3