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Exercise During Pregnancy

Not long ago you would rarely see a pregnant woman exercising since it was considered a risk for the unborn. Attitudes have changed quite a bit, and we now know there are many benefits to women who exercise during pregnancy within the limits of safety.

Safety
The most important consideration is being able to know how much is enough, and to try not to overdo it. The safe upper limit for exercise during pregnancy has not been established to date. Most likely, it is closely related to the mother's fitness level, and the specific circumstances of the pregnancy. It is not possible to set an overall standard for all women, only to encourage exercise within safety guidelines. Therefore, it is important that each woman listens to her body while exercising, and learns to recognize her own limitations. Exercise capabilities should not be compared to those of any other pregnant woman.

Regardless of your fitness level, always check with your obstetrician about starting or continuing any exercise program during pregnancy. Guidelines by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists should be strictly followed. Intensity of exercise, or heart rate, recommendations are lower for pregnant women than those suggested for the general public. While exercise has some real benefits during pregnancy, safety of the fetus and mother is another important concern. And, once you have received the "OK" and any specific instructions from your obstetrician, please review the important articles linked to this page, including the Do's and Don'ts before beginning.

Prenatal Exercise
The General Guidelines for prenatal exercise summarizes the exercise types, frequency and duration suggested for women having non-complicated pregnancies. Specific exercises and illustrations for strengthening exercises, general comments on aerobic activities and a basic set of exercises for toning your pelvic region are presented.

Bedrest and Limited Activity
Some women having a high risk pregnancy which requires very light physical activity or bedrest may be able to do some gentle exercise to maintain strength and muscle tone, but this is not true in all cases. Always get specific advice from your obstetrician regarding your risks and limitations, and never do any exercise without medical approval in advance.

Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy

  • Improved stamina and increases energy
  • Improved mood
  • Increased flexibility
  • Decreased muscular aches, pains, and tension; promotes relaxation
  • Increases circulation
  • Relief of back pain; Improves posture
  • Reduced ankle swelling, bloating, and constipation
  • Strengthened muscles in preparation for labor
  • Help with sleep
  • Improved muscle tone, strength, and endurance

 

The benefits of exercise during pregnancy are significant to the mother. Labor is often easier for regular exercisers as well.

There is some research that suggests exercising women have shorter labor, less risk of delivering prematurely, handle body stress better, and have a lower a lower rate of C-section. However, the research is not conclusive and exercise is not a guarantee for a smooth delivery.

Oh, by the way, in case you haven't heard this enough already:

Do not exercise to lose weight during pregnancy!

Physical Changes Of Pregnancy
What happens to a woman's body during pregnancy? How do these changes impact exercise and movement? Below is a simple review of the physical changes a woman's body undergoes. Because of these changes, pregnant women are physically more susceptible to injury and strain with movement. Some simple things you can do to protect yourself during routine movement required in daily living are posture corrections, using proper lifting technique and checking weekly for abdominal separation which, if present, will require you to take extra precautions. Talk with your physician if you suspect abdominal separation is occurring.

Body Adaptations To Pregnancy
  • Heart rate increases during pregnancy
  • Oxygen uptake increases throughout pregnancy.
  • Blood volume and cardiac output may increase by 30 to 45%.
  • During pregnancy a hormone called relaxin may cause your ligaments to stretch more easily which could increase your risk of injury.
  • Enlargement of the uterus, breasts, and overall weight gain can cause a shift in your center of gravity which may affect balance during exercise.

Not all exercises or diets are suitable for everyone. Before you begin this program, you should have permission from your doctor to participate in vigorous exercise and change of diet. If you feel discomfort or pain when you exercise, do not continue. The instructions and advice presented are in no way intended as a substitute for medical counseling. The creators, producers, participants and distributors of this site disclaim any liability or loss in connection with the exercise and advice provided here.

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