Pregnancy and Exercise
There are so many conflicting “do’s” and “don’t’s” these days when it comes to pregnancy and what is accepted from the standpoint of the modern medical professions to cultural and even generational beliefs. It seems like every article I read seems to either contradict the last one or encourages mothers-to-be to push the antiquated envelope of bed-ridden pregnancies. I read articles on cross fit and marathon women competing and racing well into their third trimesters, and huge supports and nay-sayers for both sides. It’s like the “eggs are good and eggs are bad for you” argument. Which is it really? I recommend each mother to listen to their bodies, ask for help and guidance from fitness and health professionals if they have questions (not just googling and self-assessing) and to stop painful movements, but many people ignore the body’s warning signs and need a checklist of exactly what to and what not to do. Below is a very general guide for the modern woman regarding pregnancy and exercise. Take it at face value and then modify to your lifestyle and fitness ability.
1. Check with your healthcare provider first:
If you exercised regularly before getting pregnant and your pregnancy is not high risk or uncomplicated, you can most likely continue working out as before, with modifications as noted below. In some cases it’s not okay to exercise during pregnancy, though, so talk to your doctor about your fitness routine to make sure your activities don’t put you or your baby at risk.
2. Take in extra calories:
Not an entire baker’s dozen of donuts each day, but an extra 300 or so calories, such as a bagel with cream cheese. Exercise burns calories, so make sure to eat well to help nourish your body. While pregnant, women naturally gain weight as the baby grows, especially a rapid growth spurt during the 16-24 weeks. The amount of weight women need to gain will vary based on pre-pregnancy weight and height. Your doctor should monitor your weight as your pregnancy progresses and can help you figure out how to keep your weight gain on track through diet and exercise.
3. Steer clear of dangerous sports:
Avoid contact sports, as well as activities that might throw you off balance. That growing belly can take you by surprise and through off your sense of equilibrium. Even if you’re normally graceful, keep in mind that during pregnancy the increased levels of the hormone relaxin, which relax pelvic joints in preparation for childbirth, loosen alignments and joints, making you more susceptible to sprains and injury from falls.
4. Drink plenty of water:
Drink water before, during, and after exercising. Otherwise, you can become dehydrated, which can cause contractions and raise your body temperature, sometimes to levels that are dangerous for you and your baby.
5. Don’t lie flat on your back:
Avoid lying flat on your back after the first trimester. This position puts pressure on a major vein called the vena cava, which will reduce blood to your heart and may diminish blood flow to your brain and uterus, making you dizzy, short of breath, or nauseated. Plus, you will feel additional pressure on your chest and this may be extremely uncomfortable. Try laying on your left or right side with a large pillow in between the legs, or propped up with plenty of pillows and a lumbar support.
6. Don’t overdo it:
Listen to your body. It is very smart! Don’t exercise until you’re exhausted. Slow down if you cannot comfortably carry on a conversation and make sure you listen to your body. Though the “do not raise your heart rate past 140 beats per minute” has been longlisted as a serious precaution, everyone is different, and you will know if you are straining in an unhealthy way. Especially at high elevations that you are not used to during hikes or snow vacations. You should feel like you’re working your body, not punishing it.
7. Watch the heat, and don’t get overheated:
Avoid letting yourself get too hot, especially during the first trimester when your baby’s major organs are developing. Raising your core temperature above 102 degrees Fahrenheit for more than 10 minutes could harm your baby. Some signs of being overheated are largely individual, but pay attention if you’re sweating a lot or feel uncomfortably warm, nauseated or short of breath.
8. Cool down and stretch often:
At the end of your workout, take five to 10 minutes to walk in place and do some pregnancy-friendly stretching or prenatal yoga. This will allow your heart rate to get back to normal and help to prevent sore muscles by allowing oxygen to get to where it needs to.
9. Follow your morphing body:
Expect your routines to change as your body does. You’ll need to modify your pregnancy workouts as your baby grows. Also expect workouts to seem different, even if you’ve been doing a particular routine for years.
10. Don’t exercise on an empty stomach:
When pregnant, you might find your body deals better having some calories moving through the body. Have healthy fruit, nuts or electrolyte-filled coconut water nearby to re-fuel after movement.
Sources: Babycenter.com, whattoexpect.com