Prenatal Exercise - The Benefits and Importance
Updated: Jan 28, 2020
If you are healthy and your pregnancy is normal, it is safe, and often recommended, to continue or start regular physical activity. Before starting an exercise program, it is important to discuss exercising with your obstetrician or other members of your health care team. If your health care professional gives you the OK to exercise, you can begin to integrate activities into your weekly routine. Continue reading to determine what exercises are safe and how they can benefit you.
Benefits for you:
There has been countless data reports to support the idea that prenatal exercise is beneficial. Benefits include, but are not limited to, the 10 listed below.
1: Reduces back pain by improving posture
2: Reduces risk of gestational diabetes
3: Reduces risk of preeclampsia (Pregnancy-induced high blood pressure)
4: Decreases chance of needing an unplanned Caesarean section
5: Decreases chance of needing an obstetric intervention (vacuum extraction)
6: On average, women who exercise during pregnancy have a shorter labor by 50 minutes.
7: Better quality sleep
8: Increased energy levels and mood
9: Faster weight loss post-delivery
10: Promotes healthy weight gain
Benefits for your baby:
You heard that right, exercising during pregnancy doesn't stop at you. Your baby also experiences advantages from your activity, including the following.
1: Your baby's BMI will likely be in a lower, healthier range.
2: Reduced chance of diabetes
3: Lower heart rate of unborn baby (which is a good sign because a higher HR is correlated with distress in the fetus) this benefit has been seen to continue up until your baby is 1 month old.
4: Have higher general intelligence scores and better oral language skills all the way to age 5 (Clapp, 1998)
How often you should exercise:
It is recommended for pregnant women to get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. You can split this up however is easiest for your schedule (5x30-minute sessions, 3x50-minute sessions, etc.)
If you weren't active pre-pregnancy it is best for you to start small and build your way up. Starting with as little as 5 minutes a day can still produce benefits for you and your baby. Try to increase your activity time by 5 minutes per week until you can handle a 30-minute session.
The exercises you can perform safely will change throughout your pregnancy, so it is best to work with a certified fitness professional to get a customized program for your specific trimester. Typically, moderate-aerobic exercises (exercises including oxygen) are the most recommended. Listed below are the best options for aerobic exercises, as well as some other safe and effective monevments.
1: Brisk walking
2: Swimming and water aerobics (these will reduce the pressure put on your joints which makes it a great choice all the way through your third trimester)
3: Modified Yoga and Pilates (The hormone, Relaxin, can cause elasticity in ligaments which can lead to pregnant women over-stretching, so only attend these classes if they're specifically labeled as prenatal)
4: Kegels !!! (If you're going to do any exercise on this list, this is my most recommended. Kegels will strengthen your pelvic floor, which will make your pushing during delivery much easier)
5: Modified abdominal exercises (under supervision or provided by professional)
6: Modified strength training (under supervision or provided by professional)
Warning Signs That Mean You Should Discontinue Exercise:
Immediately stop any further activity and contact your main healthcare provider if you experience any of the following.
1: Bleeding/other liquids coming from vagina
2: Feeling dizzy or asthough you will faint
3: Blinding Headache
4: Irregular chest pain
5: Nausea and/or vommiting