Regular Exercise During Pregnancy Promotes a Healthy Baby and an Easier Birth
You can positively affect your pregnancy and birth by exercising regularly. Find out what great benefits there are for you and your baby and the best way to start and continue to exercise during pregnancy.
Exercising regularly during pregnancy can improve your health and the health of your baby. There are many benefits for both the mother and the baby when women exercise during pregnancy.
Benefits for the mother-to-be include:
· Improved cardiovascular fitness
· Less weight gain during pregnancy
· Less chance of developing gestational diabetes
· Less constipation, leg cramps, swelling
· A more positive outlook
· An enhanced sense of well-being
· Less anxiety
· Faster labours
· Fewer complications in labour
· Faster recovery after labour
Benefits for the baby include:
· Smaller fat stores
· Improved stress tolerance
· Advanced development of the nervous systemPregnancy Guidelines (From The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists)
If you exercised regularly before your pregnancy, you can probably continue your exercise routine, but at a lower level of intensity. If you feel uncomfortable during exercise, you might want to change to an activity that feels comfortable. For example, many women who run regularly before becoming pregnant find that they don’t like the feeling of a swinging belly and breasts. They might change their activity to power walking or swimming until after the baby is born, and their body has recovered its strength.
If you haven’t been exercising before becoming pregnant, it is always a great idea to start. Choose an activity such as walking or swimming. When pregnant, mild to moderate exercise routines are better choices. Moderate exercise for 30 minutes each day will improve your health and endurance and will be beneficial for your baby.
Before you begin, talk to your caregiver about your intended exercise routine and your current physical fitness level to see if there are any concerns about your intended exercise program.
Start off slowly with low impact exercise—Walk at a comfortable pace for 5-10 minutes or ride a stationery bicycle and then gently stretch your muscles that you will use during your exercise routine. You should feel tension in the muscle, not pain.
Avoid overheating your body. Wear loose fitting comfortable clothes to help you remain cool and avoid exercise when it is hot or humid. Never exercise if you have a fever.
Drink plenty of water before and afterwards to replenish water loss. To maintain a balance of sodium and other essential minerals, add a small pinch of natural sea salt into the water you drink before and after exercise. You should not taste the salt in the water. It is safe for pregnant women to have a bit of natural salt in their drinking water. It helps your cells to absorb the water, instead of flushing it right out of your kidneys, and it helps to reduce the swelling that you might experience in your hands and feet.
Take your pulse regularly. If your heart rate reaches 140 beats per minute or higher, slow down until it is between 90-120 beats per minute. You should be able to carry on a conversation while exercising.
Cool down slowly. After finishing your exercise routine, walk slowly for at least 10 minutes to allow your heart rate and breathing rate slow to a normal level. Follow up your cool down phase with a gentle stretching session after exercise and avoid bouncing or jerky movements, deep forward or backward bending movements.
Finally, pregnancy is not the time to lose weight. Aim for improving your fitness levels and exercise regularly to experience its full benefits. Make sure that you consume increased nutrient rich calories to provide energy for your exercise sessions.
Stop exercising (and consult with your caregiver) if you experience: pain, vaginal bleeding, dizziness, increased shortness of breath, a rapid heartbeat, difficulty walking, uterine contractions that continue after rest, chest pain, pregnancy induced high blood pressure, headache, fluid leaking or gushing from your vagina, decreased fetal movement or persistent second or third trimester bleeding.Swimming Is The Best Exercise During Pregnancy
Swimming is one of the best exercise choices for pregnant women. The water supports your body and you feel like you’re not pregnant at all! The temperature of the water is less than body temperature, so it is unlikely for you to overheat during exercise. The facedown position of swimming provides optimal blood flow to your uterus and your baby. Flutter kick (the kick of front crawl) helps your sacrum and the pelvis remain mobile. The breast stroke helps to strengthen the inner thigh muscles.
Swimming is one great way to combat any excess swelling or edema. The pressure of the water against your skin helps to return any excess fluid in your legs, feet or hands back into your blood circulation.
Exercise during pregnancy is meant to be beneficial AND enjoyable. If you find that you are more tired after exercising, you are working too hard. Choose a form of exercise that is fun and vary the types of exercise that you do. Get outside and enjoy the fresh air—your developing baby will enjoy it too!
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Melanie Beingessner is a chiropractor, a breastfeeding counsellor, a certified infant massage instructor and the mother of three fabulous kids. She is the author of The Calm Baby Cookbook, written to help breastfeeding moms calm their fussy babies by changing their diets.
Dr. Melanie’s website provides information about pregnancy, breastfeeding, ADD/ADHD, chiropractic, health and wellness at http://www.drmelaniebee.org/.