As an expectant mother with an active lifestyle, I had many questions about exercising during pregnancy. After some research and discussion with my doctor, I learned the following:
Gone are the days when women are discouraged from being active during pregnancy. Unless you have a medical or pregnancy complication, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends 30 minutes of moderate exercise on most if not all days of the week.
There are many benefits to exercising throughout pregnancy, including:
- Preventing excess weight gain and fat accumulation
- Decreased health problems such as gestational diabetes, pregnancy induced high blood pressure and postpartum depression
- Fewer pregnancy discomforts such as backaches, constipation, bloating and swelling
- Improved your mood and energy level
- Increased stamina and endurance, which will help prepare you for labor
If you have been following a regular exercise program prior to your pregnancy, you should be able to maintain that program to some degree throughout your pregnancy. However, it’s important to understand that pregnancy does change the way your body responds to exercise. Some things to keep in mind include:
- Ligaments and joints become more relaxed and this can increase your chances of injury
- Your center of gravity shifts which may cause you to lose your balance
- The extra weight will make your body work harder and place stress on joints and muscles, especially those in the pelvis and lower back, which can lead to back pain
- Your growing belly puts pressure on your lungs which may make you feel short of breath at times
- Your heart works harder and beats quicker to get oxygen to your baby
- You start sweating sooner, to protect you and your baby from overheating
By staying active, I feel that I was better able to cope with the physical changes of pregnancy and have built stamina for the many challenges ahead. I encourage all expectant mothers to discuss exercise plans with their doctor. Once you have gotten clearance, get out and be active!
Sarah Holland, MSc, RD, CNSC, LDN, is a clinical dietitian at Rush University Medical Center.