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Benefits Of Exercising While Pregnant: Momma Edition

Published on 06/16/22

You’re pregnant. Your body is not the body you used to recognize. Your ankles are swollen, you can’t sleep, you’re bloated, constipated, and your back aches. Taking certain medications is out of the question, and trying to find remedies can be next to impossible. Turns out, there is one thing you can do to effectively counteract these constant frustrations. Exercise. Yes, exercising while pregnant!

To some, that may sound scary…

Exercise during pregnancy offers a lot of benefits for everyone involved. You’ll find yourself in a better mood, lowered pregnancy symptoms – a lower BMI, and better heart and brain health – and even postpartum is known to be a quicker recovery. 

Even if you never exercised a day in your life. Being active during pregnancy is a benefit. As long as you get the ‘okay’ from your healthcare provider, it’s perfectly safe. Follow a familiar workout or pregnancy-specific exercises for an all-around positive guarantee.

Despite rumors of miscarriage, early delivery, or low birth weight. If you are healthy and you have a regular pregnancy, it is extremely safe. It’s always important to discuss exercise with your healthcare provider during your early prenatal visits. Your healthcare provider can help you figure your options and what activities would benefit you the most. 

However, there are cases where certain pregnant women should not exercise during pregnancy. 

This could be women with these possible conditions or complications:

  • Certain types of heart and lung diseases
  • cerclage
  • Being pregnant with twins, or more, with risk factors for preterm labor
  • Placenta previa after 26 weeks of pregnancy
  • Preterm labor or your water has broken during this pregnancy
  • Preeclampsia or pregnancy-induced high blood pressure
  • Severe anemia

Otherwise, regular exercising while pregnant benefits you and your baby many ways such as:

  • Reduces back pain
  • Eases constipation
  • May decrease your risk of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and cesarean delivery
  • Promotes healthy weight gain during pregnancy
  • Improves your overall general fitness and strengthens your heart and blood vessels
  • Helps you to lose the baby weight after your baby is born

Pregnant women should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise weekly. 

Examples that would qualify as moderate-intensity aerobic include:

  • Brisk walk
  • General raking, digging, weeding

The 150 minutes can be divided throughout the day. For instance, broken down into 30 minute workouts or 10 minute workouts throughout the day.

For those new to this kind of activity, it’s best to start slowly and gradually work your way into a longer workout. You can begin with as little as 5 minutes a day to add up to the 150 minute minimum.

If you were active before pregnancy, generally working the same exercises as before (with your OB’s green light) is entirely okay! You and your healthcare provider can decide how much weight you need to be. If you begin to see weight loss, your OB may increase your daily caloric intake. Because your body modifies itself for pregnancy, it is important to take certain parts of the body into account when deciding how to work out. 

  • Balance: your center of gravity has now shifted because of the extra weight in the front. This means you might be less stable and you’re at greater risk of falling
  • Joints: during pregnancy, your ligaments become relaxed. This puts you at higher risk for injury. Avoid heavy bouncing, high-impact motions, and jerking activities that increase your risk. 
  • Breathing: being pregnant means your need for oxygen increases. While you exercise, blood is directed away from necessary areas of your body. This can affect the level of exercise allotted during pregnancy.

All while keeping mind these things:

  • Drink water. Before, during and after. Avoid dehydration.
  • Wear clothing that gives a lot of support
  • Avoid overheating. Mostly during the first trimester, avoid exercising outside when it’s very hot or humid. Drink water, workout in a temperature controlled room, and wear loose-fitting clothing to counteract becoming too hot.
  • Avoid laying flat on your back or standing still. When exercising then coming to a complete stop, standing motionless can cause blood to pool in your legs and feet which causes your blood pressure to drop for a short time. When laying on your back, the uterus presses on a large vein that is supposed to help return blood to the heart. 

The safest exercises known for pregnant women are:

  • Walking – it’s easy on the joints and muscles
  • Swimming – water helps support your weight and uses many of the muscles in the body.
  • Stationary bike – cycling on a bike that does the balancing for you can help keep you from risk of falling.
  • Prenatal Yoga – yoga in general improves flexibility, reduces stress, and focuses on breathing. Prenatal yoga helps teach modified poses that can accommodate a pregnant woman’s new structure and balance. 

Strength and Flexibility.

Strength training is great to help maintain and build your muscles. This can help you manage the weight gain during pregnancy as well as protect your joints and ligaments from injuries. 

With your healthcare providers ‘okay’ here are a the best exercises for strength training while pregnant:

  • Weight Lifting: increasing muscle tone with weight lifting is highly beneficial. It’s recommended to opt for more reps using a lower weight than you normally would. Normally, machines help reduce range of motion that may be the cause for increased risk of injury. And don’t forget to breathe!
  • As for routines like TRX, ask for modifications to your workouts and as for CrossFit, skip it!
  • Pilates: prenatal Pilates routines should focus on strengthening your core and lengthening your muscles with little to no impact. This can help alleviate back aches, improve flexibility (which comes in handy during labor), and improve posture. Look for Pilates classes that are targeted directly for pregnant people to help avoid moves that overstretch or are not helpful for pregnancy. 
  • This also goes the same for yoga. Practicing focus, relaxation, flexibility and deep breathing, encourages preparation for delivery and birth. Make sure it’s a prenatal yoga class to avoid any positions like handstands that rushes blood to your head. 
  • Barre: this is a mix of yoga, ballet-type movement, and Pilates. This is amazing for pregnant women to be able to strengthen their lower body and core without any high-impact movements. This also involves balance exercises that help stabilize you and your new baby bump. For Barre classes, inform your instructor you’re pregnant so they can help modify movements to be pregnancy compatible. 
  • Tai Chi: ancient form of meditation. This builds flexibility by involving slow movements for even the least experienced to strengthen their bodies. All without the risk of injury. Again, look for pregnancy specific classes and stick to exercises you are familiar with. Always be cautious with exercises involving balance.

If you are experienced in specific sports like running, sometimes these activities can continue during pregnancy. Remember to discuss all activities with your OB or healthcare provider before starting a routine. 

Always avoid workouts that increase your risk of injuries such as:

  • Contact sports like ice hockey, boxing, soccer, and basketball. All which put you at risk for getting hit, specifically in the abdomen.
  • Scuba diving
  • Activities that could cause a fall. Sports like snow water skiing, skiing, surfing, horseback riding, off-road cycling, and gymnastics
  • “Hot Yoga” or “Hot Pilates,” which might overheat you
  • Skydiving
  • Activities performed above 6,000 feet (if you live at a high altitude)

No matter what your experience, make sure to watch for warning signs when you are working out. These could be anything from:

  • Feeling dizzy or faint
  • Bleeding from the vagina
  • Fluid gushing or leaking from the vagina
  • Headache
  • Shortness of breath before starting exercise
  • Regular, painful contractions of the uterus
  • Chest pain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Calf pain or swelling

Most women can still enjoy most activities. It may not be the right time to pick up a new hobby or extreme sport but most new activities may be difficult to master with a ball-sized belly anyway.

Make sure to talk to your healthcare provider about any exercise programs you’re looking to start. Some conditions such as:

  • Placenta previa
  • Incompetent cervix
  • Severe anemia
  • Ruptured membranes

… to name a few. May rule out specific exercises for you. Talking to your doctor can help you come up with a plan, especially if maybe you don’t even know you are working with complicated pregnancy conditions.

This Is When You Should Call Your Doctor About Exercising While Pregnant

If you seem to experience any of these symptoms exercising while pregnant. Stop and call your healthcare provider:

  • Unusual pain anywhere (hips, back, pelvis, chest, head and so on)
  • Sudden headache
  • Regular, painful uterine contractions
  • Amniotic fluid leakage
  • Chest pain
  • A noticeable decrease or absence of fetal movement after week 28, if a post-workout snack doesn’t perk things up
  • Calf pain or swelling
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Very rapid heartbeat
  • Difficulty walking
  • Loss of muscle control
  • A cramp or stitch that doesn’t go away when you stop exercising
  • Increased swelling
  • Severe breathlessness
  • Vaginal bleeding

Exercising while pregnant may also help improve not only the pregnancy and delivery but post-birth effects, and after the baby is born. It can help decrease the chances of deep vein thrombosis, keep the body strong, and improve overall mood. Let’s also not forget, exercise can help you lose the extra pounds that you probably gained during the pregnancy. That’s always a win!

For Questions About Exercising While Pregnant, Call Rosh Maternal and Fetal Medicine

From questions about exercising while pregnant, nutrition and/or weight gain, to concerns about whether your medications are safe or an unexpected cramp signals a problem, expecting moms have a lot of questions.

The team at Rosh Maternal & Fetal Medicine are prepared to give you answers and provide top-notch medical care so that you have a healthy pregnancy. If you’d like to schedule prenatal care or have questions about pregnancy, call their office in the Midtown East area of New York City, or schedule an appointment online.