Exercise and Pregnancy – Go, Baby, Go!

Top pregnancy care obstetricians in North Florida discuss what women can safely do to remain fit and healthy throughout pregnancy

Exercise may seem like the last thing your body wants to do when you’re pregnant. You’re more tired than usual, your stomach is starting to grow larger and larger, your back aches, sleeping is uncomfortable and your feet and ankles are swollen.

But exercise can actually help with all of these common pregnancy woes and more!

Why Exercise During Pregnancy?

Physical activity yields a number of health benefits, especially while you’re pregnant. Exercise can:

  • Increase strength. Stronger muscles can support your growing body better! Exercise can help with pain as it strengthens the muscles in your core and legs and reduces the strain on your joints and back. A fit heart and strong muscles will aid in a successful delivery as well, and in the event of a prolonged delivery, endurance is important. Delivery can take a toll on your body, but exercising helps better prepare you to bounce back.

  • Make you look better. Exercise increases blood flow all over your body, especially to your skin, giving you an even brighter glow during pregnancy.
  • Ease discomfort. Pregnant or not, exercise releases endorphins which are chemicals that make you feel good and naturally aid in pain and stress relief. Exercise during pregnancy can relieve back aches, joint pain, and even help you get a better night’s sleep. If you are constipated, exercise also regulates your digestive system and accelerates the movement in your intestines.

  • Regain your body quicker. If you exercise during pregnancy, you’ll gain less fat, and while you probably won’t lose weight during pregnancy, you will have a healthier body to continue exercise after you have recovered from delivery.

While pregnancy and exercise affect people in different ways, exercise can also reduce your risk of gestational diabetes, pregnancy-related high blood pressure, postpartum depression, and fetal macrosomia, which is when the baby is larger than normal at birth.

Should You Exercise During Your Pregnancy?

Before exercising, make sure to get the okay from your pregnancy care doctor or midwife, and be sure to discuss anything you feel may be a concern or complication. If you’re experiencing any hip, stomach or pelvic pain, vaginal bleeding, leaking fluids, early contractions or high blood pressure, make sure to mention it to your doctor.

Generally, your fitness ability during pregnancy depends on your fitness level before pregnancy. If you were in the habit of regular exercise, you should be able to continue your routine with a few modifications from your doctor. It’s recommended to get 30 minutes of moderate exercise at least three times a week.

Even if you weren’t a frequent gym visitor before pregnancy, it’s not too late to start.  Be sure to take it slow at first, 5 or 10 minutes at a time, and slowly build your time to 30 minutes. Don’t push yourself too hard, too fast.

What Exercises Should You Do (and Not Do) While Pregnant?

Many women enjoy walking for their 30 minutes of exercise. Walking is a good aerobic exercise and softer on the joints than running. If you ran before pregnancy, you may be able to keep it up; however, you may have to adjust the length and intensity of your routine. Again, talk with your doctor about your regular routine.

Don’t be afraid to get creative! Hikes, yoga, swimming, low-impact aerobics, and even dance classes can be a fun way to get exercise and mix up your typical workout routine.

However, there are some things you may need to approach with care while pregnant. Typically, pregnant women should avoid:

  • Scuba diving
  • Heavy weight training
  • Contact sports like soccer or basketball
  • High speed activities like horseback riding or skiing
  • Exercises at high altitudes
  • Bouncing, leaping, or jarring activities
  • Activities that increase the chance of abdominal injury

You may find that some activities are okay and comfortable for the first trimester, but as your pregnancy progresses, you may have to reduce or quit certain activities. As your baby grows your center of gravity shifts, making some activities dangerous and can put your abdomen at risk of injury. Again, talk through what your body can and can’t handle with your doctor.

It’s also important to pay attention to the weather. Overheating can be problematic as internal temperatures over 102.6°F can cause birth defects in a fetus, according to KidsHealth.org. During warm weather seasons, avoid the hottest parts of the day from 10am to 3pm. If you’re pregnant during the summer, consider walking on your treadmill inside or joining a gym.

Don’t forget the basics of exercise either! Spend a few minutes warming up, cooling down, and stretching to minimize any injuries. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids. Dehydration can be very dangerous to a pregnancy.

If you experience any abnormal symptoms while exercising, slow down or stop immediately! Here’s a few things to be on the lookout for:

  • Dizziness
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Lightheadedness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain in your stomach, hips or pelvis
  • Leaking fluids

If your body is telling you to stop, listen! A good rule of thumb is that you should be able to hold a conversation while exercising. If you’re panting too much, you may be pushing yourself too hard.

Also, don’t forget to rest. Rest can be just as important as exercise during pregnancy.

When it comes to your health and the health of your growing baby, our experienced and compassionate pregnancy care physicians (obstetricians) are here to help. If you live in the Gainesville or Lake City area, contact us today.