We now know that ongoing, moderate, low-impact weight bearing exercise during pregnancy can contribute to normal, on-time delivery and improve the likelihood of giving birth to a healthy, heavier baby. Unless there are medical reasons to avoid it, pregnant women can and should exercise moderately for at least 30 minutes on most, if not all, days.
Exercise helps you feel better. The calories burned help prevent too much weight gain. Exercise can help pregnant women avoid gestational diabetes, a form of diabetes that sometimes develops during pregnancy. It can help build the stamina needed for labor and delivery.
Exercise enhances well-being and promotes early recovery after labor and delivery. It’s also worth mentioning that exercise can be very helpful in coping with the postpartum period: exercise can help new mothers keep “baby blues” at bay, regain their energy and lose the weight they gained during pregnancy.
Pregnancy Exercise Tips
- Don’t exercise for longer than 30 minutes at a time.
- Always include a 10-minute warm-up and a 10-minute cool-down period (in addition to the 30 minutes of exercise).
- Pregnant women should not exercise to exhaustion—but being fatigued is okay.
- Avoid forced, passive stretches, such as reaching for your toes.
- Pregnancy hormones make your joints looser, so overstretching—which can cause a muscle injury—is a greater risk during pregnancy. Also, avoid sudden jerking or bouncing movements or quick changes in position.
- Limit aerobic activity to the low-impact variety, especially if you weren’t exercising regularly before getting pregnant. Brisk walking, swimming, and riding a stationary bicycle are good choices. Keep it moderate (30 minutes per day), particularly if you weren’t exercising before pregnancy. Ensure weight training is done under proper guidance.
- Measure your heart rate at peak activity to be sure you are not exceeding 140 beats per minute.
- Avoid overheating: drink plenty of water, and don’t exercise in hot, humid conditions.
- Avoid activities that put you at high risk for injury, such as horseback riding or downhill skiing.
- Avoid sports in which you could get hit in the abdomen (e.g. softball). Especially after the third month, avoid exercises that require you to lie flat on your back for an extended period of time since this can reduce your heart rate, lower your blood pressure, cause dizziness, and may reduce blood flow to baby.
- Never scuba dive because it can cause dangerous gas bubbles in the baby’s circulatory system.
- Before starting any new exercise routine, always check with your health care provider.
- Stop exercising immediately and consult your midwife or doctor if any of the following symptoms occur during or after exercise: bleeding, cramping, faintness and/or dizziness, elevated blood pressure, or severe joint pain.
Here’s an easy pelvic tilt exercise to get you started. It will strengthen stomach and back muscles and reduce stress from the growth of your uterus. You may want to make sure you haven’t eaten for an hour or so before doing this exercise for comfort.
- Lie flat on your back with your knees bent (this can also be done standing if you are uncomfortable on your back).
- If needed, place a small pillow under your neck and/or lower back for support. Make sure you maintain a small curve in your neck to reduce the likelihood of strain.
- Pull in abdominal and buttock muscles (this should flatten the lower back). Imagine you are peeling your buttocks and spine up off the floor. Slowly, vertebra-by-vertebra, rise to approximately bra-strap level (as long as there is no pain or tension felt in your neck).
- Hold, breathe out, and count to five.
- Relax. Inhale. Roll down slowly, and with control, vertebra-by-vertebra.
- Repeat five times.
SOURCE: ICPA article “An Expectant Parent’s Guide to Chiropractic” By Stacey Rosenberg ~ Pathways Issue 20.