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Exercise and Pregnancy: What you need to know

When I was pregnant,19 years ago with our daughter, thanks to age-old myths and misconceptions stating that exercise will harm the baby, my gynecologist advised me to quit my job as a Fitness Professional.

During that time I was teaching daily group exercise classes such as Spinning, High-low- & Step-Aerobics and LesMills Body Pump and I loved (and still love) my job!

I asked him to give me a reason why he advised me against exercise during my pregnancy and his answer was:

“Well, you likely feel more tired than usual, and your back might ache from carrying extra weight, so perfect time to sit back and relax! “Just to be on the “safe” side!” he added.


I agree: if the mother has a form of chronic heart and/or lung disease, preeclampsia, severe anemia , insufficient cervix or cerclage, placenta previa, a history of preterm labor or miscarriages, she should stay on the safe side and refrain from exercises.

But I was 29, physical active since forever, never had any health issues and now my doctor is telling me to quit my job?!

Yes, its true, you might feel more tired and might feel out of breath faster. This is due to hormonal changes and because the body needs to distribute nutrients and oxygen to the baby and to an additional organ, the placenta.

But keeping active during pregnancy offers not only physical but also emotional benefits:

Here are just some examples:

  • In terms of the extra weight, exercise promotes healthy weight gain and helps to get back into shape post-partum.

  • Stronger muscles, hence you can carry that extra weight easier

  • Less back pain due to better posture

  • Cardio vascular exercise prepares the mother for endure labor pain and delivery

  • Might help to reduce the risk of developing preeclampsia and the development of gestational diabetes

 

I have been working in the Fitness Industry for 27 years and I am specialized in pre-post-natal training for 18 years (I started specializing in this field after our daughter was 1 year) I would say that the most common questions expecting mothers have (particularly if it’s the first pregnancy) are most likely:

1. “Will Exercise harm the baby!?”

Answer:

If the woman & baby is healthy, exercises isn't going to hurt the baby as it is well protected in the uterus surrounded in amniotic fluid which works as a cushion for baby.

2. “ Will Exercise will increase the risk of miscarriage?”

Answer:

There is no proven evidence or connection that exercise itself is linked to miscarriages.

Miscarriage in the first trimester (first 13weeks) has been only associated with very heavy weightlifting, so athletes should consider reducing the loads specially within the first trimester and also consider reducing the lifts in the second and third trimesters.


3.“Can I exercise in the third trimester or when the baby gets too heavy?”

Answer:

Regular exercise can help to cope with the physical changes such as extra weight and build stamina for the challenges ahead. The best way is listen to your body and watch for signs of a problem. Stop exercising and contact your health care provider if you have

  • Vaginal bleeding

  • Dizziness

  • Headache

  • Increased shortness of breath before you start exercising

  • Chest pain

  • Painful uterine contractions that continue after rest

  • Fluid leaking or gushing from your vagina

  • Calf pain or swelling

4. “I just found out that I am pregnant and I have not been exercising for years.

Is it safe to start a program?

Answer:

The recommended time of physical activity during pregnancy is a minimum of 150 minutes per week, however if you haven't exercised for a while, begin with as little as 10 minutes of physical activity a day.

Build up to 15 minutes, 20 minutes, and so on, until you reach at least 30 minutes a day.

Keep in mind that the first 12 weeks are most fragile hence regardless of whether you were a “gym-junkie” before you conceived or a couch-potato, you should get the doctors consent before you either continue your gym routine or commencing to a program.


5. Are there any exercise I should avoid during pregnancy?

Answer: again: listen to your body and take it easy if it does not feel right.

For example:

  • Exercises that require you to lie on your back for a long period of time can cause a condition called supine hypotensive syndrome, which occurs when the weight of the baby compresses the vena cava, a major vein that carries blood back to the heart. This can lead to dizziness, nausea, and fainting.

  • Scuba diving, which could put your baby at risk of decompression sickness

  • Contact sports, such as ice hockey, soccer, basketball and volleyball, kickboxing etc. could cause direct trauma to the abdomen

  • Activities that pose a high risk of falling — such as downhill skiing, in-line skating, mountain biking, horseback riding etc.

  • Exercise at high altitude

  • Hot yoga or hot Pilates because overheating can be harmful to the developing fetus and increase the risk of birth defects.

  • Avoid the Valsalva maneuver technique as this might create to much intra-abdominal pressure

  • Be careful with extensive jumping, hopping, skipping, or bouncing

  • Any kind of trunk flexion such as crunches, sit-ups as it might exacerbate diastasis recti

  • During pregnancy the hormone Relaxin is released to make the tissues that supports your joints more relaxed, so avoid any movements that may strain or hurt your joints

 

There are numerous health benefits for women who exercise during pregnancy but

one of the reasons why staying active during pregnancy is important is that it helps you also to get back into shape faster after the baby is born, to cope with long “nightshifts” and with the so called “Baby-blues”.

To bring this article to an end here is how I saw my 2 pregnancies: I treated it as an event, made use of the principles of specificity and used targeted exercises to prepare me for the big day ahead

I always listened to my body and combined my favorite exercises to maintain overall strength, cardiovascular exercises I enjoyed, added pelvic floor exercises and relaxation techniques.











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