Pregnancy is a time of life where we are not only responsible for our own health and safety, but also our baby’s. There are so many guidelines to health lifestyle changes to help maximize the healthy development of a new baby, it can be a little overwhelming. Exercise is one of the more confusing topics. So many cultures encourage rest—and sometimes bedrest—for large parts of pregnancy. Many other women worry that the quick and forceful movements of some activities can harm the pregnancy or cause early delivery. However, what OBGYNs across the country encourage low risk women to do, is to stay active and engage in aerobic exercise regularly in pregnancy, from the beginning to the end! Studies have consistently shown that exercising is a huge health benefit to both the mother and child.
A study in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise shows children of mothers who “got regular aerobic exercise during pregnancy tended to have stronger movement skills, versus babies whose mothers did not.” The study suggests that exercise is linked to increased blood flow to the womb and helps promote the overall development of the child.
Generally for healthy pregnant women, guidelines recommend moderate aerobic activity of 150 minutes every week. This is no different than the guidelines set for the average non-pregnant woman, where the amount of moderate exercise necessary each week is 150 minutes as well, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Of course, the kind of exercise you do must be approved by your OBGYN, since there is a threshold for how intensely pregnant women can exercise before it risks the safety of themselves and the baby. Pregnant women get a comprehensive clinical evaluation done to ensure there are no medical reasons to avoid exercising. Then, the exertion of exercise can be measured by the “talk test”. If pregnant women can engage in conversation while exercising, the exercise is reasonable enough to continue.
The following exercises are generally approved for pregnant women: brisk walking, swimming, stationary cycling, low-impact aerobics, modified yoga, modified Pilates, running/jogging, racquet sports, and strength training. Pregnant women are recommended to stay hydrated, avoid long periods of lying flat, and engage in ambulation. If a woman experiences any of the following symptoms, they should discuss them with their OBGYN, and may have to stop exercising: vaginal bleeding, consistently painful contractions, dizziness, headache, chest pain, and muscle weakness. It’s important to monitor your how you’re feeling from day to day to prevent any overexertion. If you’re in doubt of whether an exercise is good for you, address your concerns with your OBGYN and follow an appropriate exercise regime that is suited to your body and comfort level.
For the vast majority of women, the more physically active you are throughout your pregnancy, the less pain you will have, the less likely you will develop gestational diabetes and excess weight gain, the more likely you will be to go into spontaneous labor and have a vaginal delivery. Now we know that you’ll be more likely to have a stronger and healthier baby as well! So, get your running shoes!
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