Pregnancy and exercise

Published 8:34 pm Sunday, November 25, 2012

Pregnancy is an exciting yet intimidating time during a woman’s life. Women have added motivation and new incentives to both eat and live healthy. Many women ask if it is okay to exercise during pregnancy. For most patients, the answer to this question is a resounding yes. Exercise offers numerous benefits during pregnancy. The current recommendations according to the Centers for Disease Control advocate 30 minutes or more of moderate exercise on most days of the week. Regular exercise can help to reduce backaches, constipation, swelling and other commonly encountered problems of pregnancy. Mild weight training and resistance can promote muscle tone, strength and endurance. Delivery of an infant is a physically demanding event. Women who maintain a regular exercise program during the course of their pregnancy have an improved ability to cope with labor and delivery.
If you had a regular exercise routine prior to becoming pregnant, you can continue this routine with some exceptions. There are certain changes in your body that happen during pregnancy that may require you to adapt your workout routine. These changes can make certain body positions dangerous for you and your baby. You should try to avoid exercises that call for jumping, or quick changes in direction that can strain your joints. Avoid lying flat on your back while exercising because this can affect your blood pressure and the blood flow to the baby. It is also very easy to become dehydrated exercising while pregnant. You should make sure to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids before, during and after your workout.
If you plan to exercise regularly during pregnancy, be sure to follow these simple guidelines. If it has been some time since you last exercised, start slowly. Begin with short workouts and work up to your goal. Avoid strenuous exercise in hot and humid weather. You should wear comfortable clothing that consists of fabric that breathes easily to help you stay cool. Make sure to wear a well supporting bra with a comfortable fit to help protect your breasts. And finally, be sure to consume extra calories to make up for the calories you burn by exercising.
Walking, swimming and cycling are great ways to get aerobic activity. If you were a runner prior to pregnancy, you can continue to run but may need to decrease your distance and intensity.
There are some complications of pregnancy that may prevent recommendations for regular exercise. Women with a history of preterm labor, severe asthma, or poorly controlled high blood pressure should not exercise without first consulting with their physician. If you experience any problems with dizziness, chest pain, decreased fetal movement or vaginal bleeding, you should terminate your exercise routine.
After the baby is born, many women are anxious to exercise to lose those unwanted baby pounds. Remember, it takes several months for your body to recover from pregnancy and child birth. You should resume exercise slowly and not expect too much out of yourself. You should gradually work up to your pre-pregnant exercise routine.
Women who breastfeed can safely work out and continue to nurse effectively.
However, breastfeeding requires added hydration. If you are going to breastfeed and exercise regularly, you should make sure to consume extra fluids to compensate for the fluids lost during your workout. This can help prevent a decrease in your milk production while exercising.
Exercise has many benefits during pregnancy and the postpartum period. For most women, doctors encourage you to continue to be active. A regular exercise routine can benefit you both physically and mentally. If you have questions about the limitations of your exercise routine, please consult your health care provider.
Jennifer Calfee, MD is an obstetrician and gynecologist at Vidant Women’s Care Washington – 1210 Brown Street, Washington.