My patients often ask me about exercise during pregnancy. Exercise is important through all stages of life; it improves fitness, reduces obesity, and results in longevity.
Women who start their pregnancies with a healthy lifestyle are encouraged to maintain their healthy habits. On the other hand, if you haven’t reached your fitness and diet goals, pre-pregnancy is the best time to start.
The US Department of Health and Human Services issued physical activity
guidelines which say:
- Healthy pregnant and postpartum women, at least 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity aerobic activity (i.e. brisk walking)
- Women who are already engaging in vigorous intensity aerobic activity (i.e. running or jogging) can continue physical activity during pregnancy and the postpartum period.
Bear in mind, this activity should by monitored by your physician and should be consistent. Throughout your pregnancy your physician will monitor and adjust your activity. As your baby grows your lower back slopes inward. This leads to increased forces across the joint and spine during weight bearing exercise. Blood volume, heart rate, respiratory rate and cardiac output increase to support blood flow and oxygenation to baby and mom at once. The most dramatic change occurs from 28-32 weeks. Around this time, it’s important to monitor symptoms and avoid exercises that will decrease venous return, like certain yoga postures. So maybe you can’t touch your toes for very long, but the elliptical is just fine.
Healthy pregnancies in which physical activity is continued have not been linked to poor fetal growth, miscarriage or premature delivery. However, there are a few relative contraindications to aerobic exercise including: anemia, cardiac arrhythmia, chronic bronchitis, poorly controlled type I diabetes, extreme obesity, extremely underweight, poorly controlled hypertension, intrauterine growth restriction and history of heavy smoking.
Bottom line, exercise is good for you. But as pregnancy progresses it’s important to understand how your body is changing and make sure you aren’t doing too much. Also, hydration is key. Pregnant women need to keep a water bottle on hand, wear loose clothing, and avoid high heat.
You may be wondering about exercise in the postpartum period. This is another important time to start as this is the time in a woman’s life they are most likely to abandon their workout. If you’re breastfeeding, no need to worry it shouldn’t affect your milk production, composition or your little one’s growth. I hope this helps you on your journey!