Pregnancy brings many changes to a mother’s body, lifestyles, and even relationships. One of the best ways to maintain health and happiness throughout all these changes is with exercise. Although women who are pregnant may have to alter their regular workout routines, it is usually safe to exercise right through delivery day.
We all know that exercise keeps your body healthy and fit, and during pregnancy exercise confers even more benefits. Exercise helps to prepare the body for labor and delivery, so mothers who exercise often recover faster—and lose that baby weight sooner—than mothers who don’t exercise during pregnancy. Meanwhile exercise can minimize the risk of varicose veins (which may pop up in the second and third trimesters), decrease problems with constipation, and make it easier to sleep at night.
Women of average weight should gain 25 to 35 pounds during pregnancy, so exercise can help keep weight gain in check. Even women who had no exercise routine before pregnancy can get started and enjoy the benefits, so long as they start out slowly and avoid overexertion. If you’re unsure about where to begin, consult your physician for recommendations about beginning a fitness routine.
Work-Out Tips for Pregnant Women
Pregnancy changes a woman’s body in significant ways, and it’s important to keep these changes in mind during any workout. For instance, release of certain hormones causes a loosening of the joints, which can make pregnant women more prone to joint injuries like sprains and strains. The body’s weight is also distributed differently, so balance can become an issue, especially in the last trimester. To ensure safe and healthy work-outs, pregnant women can follow the following guidelines:
- Choose physical activities that minimize the risk for injury. Swimming, walking, and cycling on a recumbent or stationary bike are great options because they place less impact on the joints and involve lower risk of injury due to falls or loss of balance. Contact sports should be avoided during all stages of pregnancy.
- Prepare your body for exercise by stretching thoroughly. Talk to a trainer or your doctor about appropriate stretches for different phases of your pregnancy, especially when weight gain and a protruding belly can make stretching more difficult.
- Avoid overexertion, including working out until you’re out of breath. Being breathless deprives you—and therefore the baby—of necessary oxygen. How do you know if you’re at the right intensity? You should be able to carry on a conversation with someone during your workout.
- Skip workouts during extreme heat, which can cause fatigue and dehydration. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids, even when working out indoors or in cold weather, as the body can get dehydrated easily in any condition.
- Lifting weights is safe, so long as you don’t lift them overhead or strain the lower back. Focus on maintaining muscle tone, rather than building muscle mass. Use lighter weights, and avoid overworking the abdominal muscles, especially in the later stages of pregnancy, when these muscles begin to separate in preparation for labor.
- Lying flat on your back during the second and third trimesters can cut off blood circulation to the womb. Avoid any exercises or stretches that call for that position. Expectant mothers will also want to change postures during sleeping, so they don’t sleep on their backs.
If you have questions about exercise during pregnancy or other prenatal health concerns, please contact us at Central Florida Regional Hospital. Visit us online or call 407- 321-4500 ext. 5613 for information about registering to deliver in the Baby Suites at Central Florida Regional Hospital, signing up for prepared childbirth classes, and other educational opportunities.