I hate to admit it but during my first pregnancy I wasn’t very active and barely exercised. In hindsight, if I had exercised more I possibly could’ve avoided a cesarean section and had a an easier postpartum recovery.
That’s why for my second pregnancy I purchased a FitBit and I was on a walking marathon eager to meet my step goal everyday. Being active boosted my energy and that endorphin high enhanced my pregnancy glow (lol)! Lo and behold I was able to have a VBAC (vaginal birth after c-section) and I had a swift recovery.
As a pregnant woman you are STRONG! You are not fragile. You are not broken. You don’t have a “disease.” You don’t even have a “condition.”
Wth that being said let’s talk FITNESS!
Q: Why should I exercise during pregnancy?
A: Daily activity can help avoid high blood pressure during pregnancy (preeclampsia) postpartum depression and gestational diabetes. It also helps you from gaining too much weight, decreases swelling due to increased circulation, and decreases your odds of your child suffering from obesity later in life.
Q: Which exercises are best for pregnant women?
A: The No. 1 activity, which is good for everybody, is WALKING, Walking is perfect, because it’s low-impact and great for people who hadn’t been exercising prior to pregnancy. Aerobics dancing, swimming (buoyancy is a friend to pregnant women), stationary cycling, rowing, hiking and jogging to the list. They key is combining this aerobics with low intensity weight training ( 8 lbs maximum). Prenatal yoga and pilates can also help with the strength training aspect.
Q: Which exercises should I avoid?
A: Hold off on scuba diving and horseback riding while pregnant (a reasonable request, right?), and for good measure, avoid hot yoga. Avoid exercises that can lead to abdominal trauma. That means no competitive ball sports or contact sports, downhill skiing, gymnastics, water-skiing, surfing or road biking.
Q: Just how much exercise are we talking?
A: 30 minutes a day, most days a week, For women who haven’t exercised in months (or years or decades) prior to pregnancy, this may seem like a crazy demand. But remember, this doesn’t need to be 30 continuous minutes of wind sprints or cross fit. Start slowly. Take breaks. Ease into 30 minutes of walking. You can break up those 30 minutes into 10-minute segments. So if all you can do is 10 minutes, do the 10 minutes. And then later in the day if you’re feeling up to it, do another 10 minutes.
For women who already regularly exercise, chances are, they can simply continue their routine – unless, of course, they’re routinely water-skiing or playing rugby or doing something else high-risk. Whatever exercise routine you’ve built (or have yet to build), it should be part of that initial discussion with your health care provider so she can give you proper guidance.
Q: What else do I need to know?
A: Remember to hydrate and cool down after workouts, and be aware that your center of gravity is a little off center. There’s also the pregnancy-triggered hormone relaxin in play. This hormone helps relax your ligaments and muscles, which is beneficial for the pelvic area come delivery time, but the loosening effect throughout the rest of your body makes you more likely to strain a ligament. In other words do loads of stretching and strengthening (hello yoga) to prevent injuries.
And don’t work too hard. A common rule of thumb: Back off if you’re breathing so heavily you can’t carry on a conversation while exercising. You should feel energized after your workout, not exhausted.
Hope this motivates my pregnant lady tribe to move more during this special period of time!
As always! Stay Dainty,
Sandra Thomasian, MD