Exercise in Pregnancy

Exercise – before, during and after pregnancy

Many women have questions and concerns regarding exercise, either while you are trying to conceive, during pregnancy or after their delivery. There are studies that show that regular exercise has many benefits including decreasing the risk of diabetes during pregnancy, a shorter labor and easier recovery. Start with reviewing your current exercise routine with your doctor and find out if there are any contraindications to those activities. Also, discuss your exercise goals which may have to be modified as your pregnancy progresses.

Before pregnancy:

While you are trying to conceive, you don’t need to modify your exercise plan unless it is so intense, that you don’t have a period anymore. Include a daily multivitamin or prenatal vitamin.  

First Trimester:

The hormones are raging and you feel tired, nauseous, and maybe you are even throwing up. It is hard to even contemplate exercising let alone getting out of bed. For those of you who feel like this, try to get some movement in your day, like walking or even yoga, which may help some of your symptoms. For those that feel better, keep up the routine you are doing, but be careful about staying hydrated.  Take a break from your cardio every 20 to 30 min, hydrate, and then do another set if you want. A good rule of thumb for the checking whether your intensity is too much or not is to keep your heart rate no faster than 140.  For those taking classes, let your instructor know you are pregnant. If you haven’t been exercising prior to your pregnancy, now is not the time to start something vigorous – stick with walking, biking or swimming.

Second Trimester:

In the second trimester is generally the time you feel your energy return. You are starting to show and by the end, even feeling baby movement. This is the time you will probably feel the most “normal” in terms of continuing your exercise routine. Be careful though, as there are changes that may affect your exercise routine – the pregnancy hormones affect your ligaments, making them a little looser, and your center of balance has changes. Avoid being flat on your back or standing in one place too long. So if your routine includes weights, either sit or be on an incline. Swimming, water aerobics, walking, running, biking, yoga are all great ways to keep in shape. Don’t forget to stay well hydrated and monitor your heart rate. Avoid contact sports or activities that increase your risk of falling.

Third Trimester:

And now to the last trimester, where your body becomes, well, an alien to you. You may have back pain, swelling, and feel as of there is no way your belly can get any bigger, but it does. You may feel the need to tone down your exercise routine – a run may turn into a jog or walk, you may need to shorten your cardio routine. Swimming is great now, you will have the sense of feeling weightless and nothing is better than that at this time. But listen to your body and your doctor – if you are having certain pregnancy complications (i.e. preterm labor, high blood pressure), you may need to curtail your exercise. Otherwise, if your pregnancy is uncomplicated, keep going – it will help you in labor to be in shape.

Postpartum:

Lastly, after you deliver. Returning to an exercise routine should be gradual. The physiological changes of pregnancy persist for 4 to 6 weeks after delivery. If you had a c- section, you will need to wait longer to resume exercise (up to 6 weeks). At this point your body demands are different – you are fatigued from lack of sleep, if you are nursing, you are generally the sole nutrition for your baby. So as before, listen to your body – if something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. Probably the best exercise to do at first is walking which then can include your baby. Be kind to yourself as you navigate the new demands of being a mother.  

Enjoy this new time in your life and keep your body fit. Don’t hesitate to discuss any of your exercise concerns with your doctor.