There is no better motivation to stay fit than thinking about its benefits for you and your baby. For expectant mothers, regular exercise helps prevent back pain, increases energy and eases labor, delivery and post-partum recovery. Moreover, a recent publication in the Scientific American indicated that pregnant moms, who exercise at least 20 minutes thrice a week, are giving their children a head start in brain development.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, expressed exercise guidelines for women during pregnancy. Consultation with a woman’s personal Obstetrician (OB) is a must before any workout is commenced. This is to make sure that there are no medical conditions that may contraindicate exercising. OBs warn pregnant women not to exercise if they have the following: serious heart or lung disease, an incompetent cervix, risk for premature labor, twin pregnancy, persistent second- or third- trimester bleeding, placenta previa on or after 26 weeks of pregnancy, ruptured membranes, pre-eclampsia (pregnancy-induced hypertension).
If there are no contraindications, the following guidelines must still be considered in a pregnant woman’s fitness regimen:
A routine of at least 30 minutes may be done, on most days. Workouts should be started with a warm-up set and ended with cooling down moves.
Ensure that you have enough energy with a snack, 1 hour prior to exercising. Drink plenty of fluids, preferably water, especially on hot and humid weather.
Exercise may be done up to the 2nd and 3rd trimesters, as long as standing for long periods and lying on the back are not required.
Exertion on high altitudes, or jerky and jumping movements (like ball games, skating, and horseback riding) and scuba diving should be avoided to prevent injury.
Exercise should be discontinued, when any of the following is experienced: bleeding, preterm labor, difficulty of breathing before the routine, dizziness, headache, decreased fetal movement, amniotic fluid leakage, chest or calf pain, and leg swelling.
Low to moderate exercises may help
Even women who are sedentary before they got pregnant may begin low- to moderate-intensity routines to condition their bodies. Walking or dancing may provide a good workout for pregnant women, without any danger.
Swimming also takes away the burden of gravity during exertion, as movements to keep fit may be done in water. Conversely, it is inactivity that may be a real culprit; with the associated risk of excessive weight gain, high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, back problems and difficulties during labor.
Some Pilates and Yoga moves may be suitable for pregnant women. Yoga, not only helps a mother maintain balance, but also calms her mind with meditation. On the other hand, Pilates aids in developing muscle strength and memory for the core, pelvic floor, hips and spine.
A number of exercises that could be appropriate during pregnancy work out the arms, legs, back and core muscles; and also improves balance. They may be done at home or where the pregnant woman is most comfortable (as some moms already sweat it out in the gym prior to pregnancy). Some routines that may be done consecutively are as follows: plié, side-lying leg lifts, planking, and arm curl and lifts.