Exercise and Pregnancy
Maintaining a regular exercise program during your pregnancy will help limit your weight gain, give you more energy and result in a faster recovery from labor and delivery.
You will also experience less physical discomfort during pregnancy and likely have an easier, shorter and less complicated labor. But always consult your doctor or midwife before starting or continuing an exercise routine while pregnant.
Here are some things to keep in mind when exercising during your pregnancy:
- Stay comfortable while exercising by wearing a supportive bra and cool clothing.
- Stay cool by drinking plenty of water - you know you are well hydrated when your urine is pale - and working out in an environment that is not too hot.
- An internal temperature above 101 degrees Fahrenheit can cause birth defects in the developing fetus. To determine your proper exertion level, take your temperature rectally within five minutes of finishing a workout. Do this early in pregnancy to make sure you are staying cool enough. If you exercise at the same intensity with each workout, you don't have to take your temperature each time.
- Stop exercising and contact your healthcare provider immediately if you experience:
- Rapid heartbeat.
- Bleeding or other fluid leaking from the vagina.
- Dizziness, difficulty walking or feeling faint.
- Uterine contractions.
- Increased shortness of breath.
- After the first trimester, don't exercise while flat on your back because you can decrease uterine blood flow. And don't stand motionless for long periods of time.
- Since less oxygen is available for aerobic exercise during pregnancy, you need to adapt your program accordingly. Don't exercise to the point of exhaustion and stop when fatigued.
- Remember that non-weight-bearing exercise like swimming are easier to continue and carry less risk of injury than weight-bearing exercise.
- Avoid any exercise during which you could lose your balance or that risks even mild abdominal trauma.
- Pay attention to your posture so your lower back doesn't undergo extra stress. Remember it is under pressure from the extra weight pulling you forward.
- Since you need an additional 300 calories a day during pregnancy, you need to eat an adequate diet, especially if you are exercising.
- Work on regaining your muscle tone after delivery. Perform Kegel exercises to tone the muscles around the vagina and bladder as soon as it feels comfortable. (Relax and contract the muscles that control the flow of urine without moving your legs. Tighten for 3 seconds and relax.)
- After a vaginal delivery, you can start working your abdominal muscles while still in bed by lifting your head from the pillow. Don't do this if you have had a cesarean section.
- During the initial six weeks after giving birth, begin exercising slowly and increase your workout gradually. Be sure to avoid extreme fatigue and dehydration. Wear a comfortable, supportive bra.
If you experience any pain, stop exercising. Consult your doctor if you experience bright red vaginal bleeding that is heavier than a normal menstrual period.
Links & Resources
American Academy of Pediatrics
Exercising Through Your Pregnancy, by James F. Clapp III, MD, Human Kinetics, 1998.
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