Exercise and Pregnancy
If you just found out that you are pregnant for the first time, you probably have a million questions about how to adjust your current lifestyle and activity level to maintain a safe and healthy pregnancy. One of the more common questions women have when they conceive is, “what kind of exercise and how much exercise is safe?” According to the Department of Health and Human Services, if you are in good general health and you exercised regularly before pregnancy, you should continue to exercise at least 150 minutes a week at a moderate intensity. That being said, it is still very important to take certain precautions. Don’t try to exercise at your pre-pregnancy level; instead, do what’s most comfortable for you now. Low impact aerobics are better than high impact. For example, walking would be better than running (unless you are an avid runner and feel no discomfort when running while pregnant). Swimming and prenatal yoga are two other great forms of exercise that are safe to perform during pregnancy.
Maintaining a regular exercise routine throughout your pregnancy can help you stay healthy and feel your best. It can also improve your posture and decrease some common discomforts like backaches and fatigue. There is evidence that it may even prevent gestational diabetes (diabetes that develops during pregnancy) and build more stamina needed for labor and delivery. Maintaining strength in your core muscles will provide stability and support for your spine, and maintaining strength in your lower and upper body muscles will help you with lifting and carrying your baby and baby equipment after delivery. Not only does exercise during pregnancy help you physically but it is also associated with enhanced psychological well-being. Physical activity can stimulate your energy levels, which helps to counteract the feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression that can occur during pregnancy.
As much benefit as exercising may have during pregnancy, it is still very important to make sure your general health poses no contraindications to physical exertion. As your pregnancy progresses you will have regular appointments with your OB to monitor health complications that may present themselves as a result of pregnancy, so you will have the opportunity to talk to your doctor about how to manage these issues and whether or not to continue any exercise routine you have started. For women who do not have any risk factors for adverse perinatal outcomes, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has developed the following guidelines to follow with regards to exercise during pregnancy:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and American College of Sports Medicine recommend 30 minutes or more of moderate exercise 4-7 days per week
Physically active women with a history or risk for preterm labor or poor fetal growth should reduce her activity in the 2nd and 3rd trimesters
Pregnant women should avoid lying on their backs during exercise after the first trimester due to restricted blood flow and possible orthostatic hypotension in that position
Although competitive and recreational athletes are free to remain active during pregnancy, they should stay away from contact sports that could cause trauma to the mother or the fetus, like hockey, basketball, and soccer. They should also avoid activities with an increased risk of falling, like gymnastics, cycling, horseback riding, and downhill skiing. Lastly, pregnant women should keep in mind that exertion under water (scuba diving) or at extreme altitudes (hiking or skiing above 6,000) also pose various risks to the fetus.
In summary, if you are pregnant, in good health, and were physically active before becoming pregnant, you are most likely safe to continue with moderate exercise several times a week, and if you have any doubts whatsoever, be sure to consult with your doctor.