We’ve all heard of the phrase “Eating for Two” while pregnant, but have you heard of the phrase “Exercising for Two”? If you haven’t, you’re in good company.
There are many benefits to staying active while your baby is growing. Exercise and fitness are important while you are pregnant, because in addition to caring for your physical and emotional health, you are giving your baby the healthiest start possible.
Luckily, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have provided some guidelines to help staying active during pregnancy safe and easy to understand.
The CDC recommends that pregnant women get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week.
- Aerobic activity is one in which you move large muscles of the body
- Moderate intensity means you are moving enough to raise your heart rate and start sweating
- You still can talk normally, but you cannot sing.
You can divide the 150 minutes into 30-minute workouts on five days of the week or into smaller 10-minute workouts throughout each day. If you are new to exercise, start out slowly and gradually increase your activity.
During your pregnancy you are certainly going to have times when your body is going to tell you that you need to relax, kick up your feet and take it easy. It makes sense. You’re growing a human after all!
For me, I had terrible morning sickness for the first 15 weeks of my pregnancy with my daughter. It was hard to get moving when spurts of nausea hit, but I found that getting out and going for a walk—or taking a barre class—would minimize my nausea and improve my mood.
The ACOG is spreading the word that if you are healthy and your pregnancy is normal, it is safe to continue or start most types of exercise with a few modifications.
Now, if I haven’t convinced you yet, here are some facts to consider.
Regular exercise during pregnancy benefits you and your fetus in these key ways:
- It reduces back pain.
- It eases constipation.
- It can decrease your risk of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia and Cesarean delivery.
- It promotes healthy weight gain during pregnancy.
- It improves your overall general fitness and strengthens your heart and blood vessels.
- It helps you lose that stubborn baby weight after your baby is born.
Although every pregnancy is different and you need to discuss exercise with your obstetrician, for many women, physical activity does not increase their risk of miscarriage, low birth weight or early delivery.
Here are four things you can do to make exercise during pregnancy as safe as possible:
- Drink plenty of water before, during and after your workout to avoid dehydration. Signs of this include dizziness, a racing or pounding heart, and urinating only small amounts or having urine that is dark yellow.
- Wear a sports bra that gives lots of support. Later in pregnancy, a belly support belt may reduce discomfort while walking or running. Ask your doctor if this is right for you.
- Avoid becoming overheated, especially in the first trimester. Drink cool fluids, wear loose-fitting clothing, and exercise in a temperature-controlled room. Do not exercise outside when it is very hot or humid.
- Avoid standing still or lying flat on your back. When you lie on your back, your uterus presses on a large vein that returns blood to the heart. Standing motionless can cause blood to pool in your legs and feet. Both of these positions can decrease the amount of blood returning to your heart and may cause your blood pressure to decrease for a short time.
If your OB-GYN gives you the green light to exercise, you can decide together on an exercise routine that fits your needs and is safe during pregnancy. There are prenatal barre, yoga and pilates classes designed for pregnant women that teach modified poses to accommodate a pregnant woman’s shifting balance.
You should avoid poses that require you to be still or lie on your back for long periods. If you are an experienced runner, jogger, or racquet-sports player, you may be able to keep doing these activities during pregnancy.
There are some women out there who, because of medical reasons, should not exercise during their pregnancy. Specifically, the ACOG clearly warns women with the following conditions or pregnancy complications not to exercise during pregnancy:
- Certain types of heart and lung diseases
- Cervical insufficiency or cerclage
- Being pregnant with twins or triplets (or more) with risk factors for preterm labor
- Placenta previa after 26 weeks of pregnancy
- Preterm labor or ruptured membranes (your water has broken) during this pregnancy
- Preeclampsia or pregnancy-induced high blood pressure
- Severe anemia
As you can tell, I am passionate about this very real and current topic in my own life. I experienced a lot of benefits of staying active throughout my pregnancy and into the postpartum period, as well. And I want to lend support to other women as they strive to balance fitness, fatigue and body changes during their pregnancy.
So get after it!
Talk to your doctor, and find the activity that best interests you. And although you may need to make modifications here and there, your body and your baby will benefit greatly.
Let’s make this whole “Exercising for Two” phrase an actual thing!
Amy-Katherine Ahrberg, RN, BSN
Exercise Nurse Specialist
The Grove at The Retreat at Ponte Vedra Beach