Exercise during pregnancy is important. It has many benefits for mom and baby. Exercise can:
The exercises you can do during pregnancy depend on your health and how active you were before you became pregnant. If you were not active before pregnancy, this is not the time to start an extremely strenuous exercise program. However, swimming, walking, or prenatal exercise classes are great places to get started. If you exercised before pregnancy, there is no reason you cannot continue, within reason.
- Improve muscle tone and cardiovascular fitness
- Lead to a better appearance and posture
- Lessen some of the discomforts of pregnancy
- Strengthen the muscles needed for labor and delivery
- Make you feel good, too
Before you begin any exercise program, discuss it with your healthcare provider. The two of you together can plan an exercise program that is consistent with your current level of fitness and health conditions. If you experience any problems, such as bleeding, premature labor, dizziness, severe abdominal pain, or feeling unusually tired, contact your healthcare provider immediately.
Once you get the okay to exercise, here are some tips to follow:
Safe Exercises: swimming, brisk walking, prenatal exercise classes, and stationary bicycling, low-impact aerobics, tennis, golf, bowling (be careful of back strain later in pregnancy).
- Be sure to warm up before exercise and cool down afterwards.
- Begin exercising gradually. Do not overdo it. You don't want to become breathless or exhausted. In the proper range, you should be able to carry on a conversation with someone next to you. If you can sing, you may not be exercising intensely enough, but if you are too winded to speak, then slow down. Discuss your exercise intensity and get a recommendation from you healthcare provider beforehand.
For a full explanation of the Perceived Exertion Scale, please see the BabyFit.com Fitness article Pace-Don't Race your Heart. You should be able to talk easily while you exercise. If you are out of breath, you are working too hard.
- Exercise on a regular basis (3 - 5 times a week, 20-30 minutes a session)
- Be sure to wear clothing which provides comfort and adequate breast support. Comfortable shoes are also important.
- Exercise only to the point where you begin to get tired. Listen to your body; it will tell you when it is time to slow down.
- Avoid exercising in hot weather.
- Do not get overheated.
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- Avoid hot tubs and saunas.
- Your center of gravity changes while you are pregnant. This can affect your balance. Be careful getting up and lying down.
- After the fourth month of pregnancy (16 weeks), do not lie on your back while exercising. This decreases the blood flow to the uterus and placenta.
- When finished exercising, lie on your left side for 15 - 20 minutes.
Exercises to AVOID: As your uterus grows and your abdomen gets larger, your sense of balance may be affected. This is also not the time for contact sports where you could fall, injure yourself, or be struck in the abdomen. Therefore, avoid these activities: scuba diving, water skiing, basketball, softball, baseball, horseback riding, and snow skiing.