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Working Out While Pregnant

Hey There Mama!

A common question I get from my newly pregnant moms is;

“Can I still work out, and should I be?  And if so, what exercises should I be doing?”

The answers are Yes!  Yes!  And let me show you some good options.

What’s Your Body Doing?

Once your baby has officially arrived in the uterus & implanted into your uterine lining they will develop from a blastocyst to an embryo.  During this time, the amnionic sac is forming & filling with fluid until it ruptures roughly 36 weeks later (a.k.a. when your water breaks).  The amnionic sac protects your baby from bumps, helps develop lung function, and regulates their temperature as they swallow/breathe the amniotic fluid while in utero.

Should I Even Be Exercising?  My Mom Told Me to Relax!

Let’s start off by covering when you SHOULD NOT exercise during a pregnancy.   Always consult with your doctor or midwife especially if you have any medical conditions like heart or lung disease, if you’re at risk for preterm labor, or have placenta previa.  Woman carrying multiples could also be at higher risk & should consult first with a doctor.

Otherwise it is great for momma & baby to get some exercise as long as it is low impact.  While your mother may tell you to take it easy and rest because that’s what she was told, today the recommendations are to get up and move.  Even the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists doesn’t recommend strict bed rest at all anymore.

How Does Exercise Help Me & My Baby?

“Observational studies of women who exercise during pregnancy have shown benefits such as decreased gestational diabetes mellitus, cesarean birth and operative vaginal delivery, and postpartum recovery time. Physical activity also can be an essential factor in the prevention of depressive disorders of women in the postpartum period.”  – The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

“Just 20 minutes of moderate exercise at least three times a week can boost your baby’s brain development.  Starting in the second trimester, women in the study were randomly assigned to one of two groups: those who exercised regularly during pregnancy had babies with MORE MATURE CEREBRAL ACTIVATION according to lead researcher Elise Labonte-LeMoyne at the University of Montreal.”

What Can I Do Physically?

Aerobic or intense activity used to have criticism that it could be too much for a baby decades ago, but there is no medical evidence to support those claims yet there are many studies of the benefits of exercise.  You do want to avoid any contact sports where you could get hit in the abdomen but hitting the gym, cycling, running, swimming is all acceptable.  At a minimum, every mama should be walking! 

What Routine Should I Have for Exercise?

To get the body moving for mama just 30 minutes a day with moderate exercise is enough for most women.  If you currently workout then you can continue as long as it is low impact and you understand you are “breathing for two” because the baby’s lungs are not yet developed so they are relying on your oxygen supply to the placenta.  If you do not currently exercise, then you can start out with 10 minutes & work up to 30 but make it a daily routine.  So, grab a 5lb. dumbbell, a yoga mat, plus your walking shoes & LET’S GET THAT BUMP MOVING!!

Specific Exercise Ideas

#1 Walk             

If in addition to an exercise routine or if it’s your only exercise, walking is the best way to get moving & it has many benefits.  If it’s too hot, then walk in an airconditioned mall.  If the weather is nice then find a smooth path or track in the fresh air.  Be sure to focus on posture: head up, shoulders relaxed, & arms bent.

#2 Yoga

If you are already practicing a yoga routine, then keep it going but you should consider avoiding hot yoga since high heats are not recommended for pregnancy (like hot tubs and sauna’s).  Consider signing up with a trusted prenatal yoga studio in your area.  There are also excellent free prenatal yoga programs that are tailored to help your mind & body like Sarah Beth Yoga (prenatal) or Yoga with Adrienne (prenatal) on YouTube.

#3 Swimming

With plenty of indoor / outdoor swimming & water aerobics options this is a great low impact exercise available year-round.  The feeling of weightlessness allows your spine to relax from carrying the new weight of pregnancy allowing you to exercise with less discomfort.  Other advantages are the benefits on the cardiovascular system.  By being submerged in water you receive hydrostatic pressure down to your feet & ankles forcing blood upward toward your heart.  This reduces swelling, & increases amniotic fluid, while supporting the pelvic floor muscles & abdominal region.  RECOMMENDATION:  Try to use a saltwater pool if available, but if chlorine is the only option you can mix coconut oil with a quarter-teaspoon on non-GMO ascorbic acid & apply it to your skin before entering the pool to offset exposure.

#4 Cardio

Even if you are a Cardio Junkie, Marathon Runner, Cross Fit Fanatic, or any other extreme exercise pro you will want to keep it to a moderate level.  During pregnancy it is not about losing weight or achieving new personal records, it is about maintaining your health.  When gauging the intensity, always remember that you should be able to carry on a conversation while doing the exercise.  Be sure to add in additional time for warm up & cool down.  If you are taking a class of any kind feel free to skip a move or two to catch your breath.  If you feel lightheaded or get a headache that is your body telling you that you have pushed it too far so do not hesitate to take the break you need to recover.

Fitness Apps for Pregnancy

FINALLY Make Sure You Fuel Your Body

As you exercise and your baby is pulling nutrients from your body you need to add the right fuel.  Watch out for my blog on Fueling Your Pregnancy for ideas on a proper diet mixed with vitamin & mineral supplements that are recommended for a healthy momma & baby.

xo, Dr. Ashley

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