Exercising During Pregnancy: Should You Do It?
|By Dr. Steve Vasilev, MD on Tuesday, November 12, 2013|
|There has been a lot of talk about training during pregnancy. Is it safe? How hard should you push yourself? Read on to learn the right way to exercise while pregnant to reap its benefits.||
Weight gain is no doubt part of being pregnant, but keeping weight gain within a healthy range is key for both mother and child. Healthy weight gain during pregnancy should be between 25 and 35 pounds, adding about 10 pounds if you’re expecting twins.
Many women want to keep exercising while pregnant to avoid gaining too much weight or undoing all their training prior to becoming pregnant, but there is right way and a wrong way to work out while pregnant and many benefits beyond weight management.
Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy
Weight control is certainly a benefit, but not the only reason to continue an exercise routine during pregnancy. Women who exercise while pregnant are less likely to develop conditions like gestational diabetes, sleep better and will have better stamina to lessen fatigue. Physical activity can help with other symptoms of pregnancy by reducing stress and helping to improve mood. Strong muscles will also make carrying the weight of a growing belly easier on the body, for better comfort and less back pain.
Lastly, women who exercise during pregnancy may have an easier time delivering their baby and that baby is more likely to be at a healthy weight.
Keeping mother and child well nourished is crucial for both of their health during pregnancy, but will also make exercising easier and safer. Consuming extra calories means not feeling as depleted during exercise but also throughout the rest of your day. While details regarding the best diet and supplements during pregnancy isn't the focus of this article, here are a few tips. A balanced diet between all food groups is optimal, but if you are vegetarian, it's a safe diet as long as it's balanced. A pure vegan diet may put you at risk during pregnancy, so discuss the details of your diet with a nutritionist and your physician.
If you like fish or take fish oil, eat only cooked fish to avoid parasites and look for sources that limit your mercury exposure. Avoid caffeine and nitrites/nitrates and limit alcohol. These can all cross the placenta and cause serious problems for your baby. If you take supplements, it's especially crucial you discuss each one with your physician. Many can cause bleeding, preterm labor, miscarriage or possibly cause birth defects.
Before hitting the mat, bike, track or gym, it's important to speak with your doctor to get cleared for exercise, especially if you weren't very active before becoming pregnant. In most situations, walking is considered safe as a beginner’s program during pregnancy. If you were active before pregnancy you can usually engage in similar activity but in moderation. If you're a competitive athlete, it's crucial that your workout activities are under physician supervision at all times.
As a general rule, low impact types of exercise, such as walking or swimming are best. If you were a regular runner, walker, swimmer, etc. before pregnancy, it should be safe to continue, but lowering the intensity may be necessary. Definitely don't try to push yourself harder than you were or try something new. Any activity that poses a great risk of falling should also be avoided, as your balance will be affected by your growing belly. Don't hold your breath during exercise and avoid exercise in hot and humid weather where you increase risk of dehydration.
Aim for 30 minutes a day to keep yours and your baby's health on track. Keep your physician informed of your physical activity and pay attention to how you feel. Any dizziness, pain, headaches, extreme fatigue or spotting shouldn't be ignored. Finally, if you have a medical condition or previous pre-term births, exercise during pregnancy may be harmful. So, again, the key is to check with your physician.
Exercise should always be a part of your life and by taking it seriously, you can reap the benefits during your pregnancy, delivery and beyond.
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