OB/GYN — Exercise During Pregnancy

pregnant woman exercising

Exercising during pregnancy can help minimize minor discomfort associated with the pregnancy, improve posture, make the body suppler, enhance circulation, and provide a feeling of general well-being. Pregnancy is a state of health, not of illness. Properly executed exercises can help maintain health and avoid problems. A well-conditioned body will perform better and more reliably during the stress of advanced pregnancy, labor, and delivery. Preconditioning will contribute to speedy recovery of body contour following delivery.

Exercise regularly, rather than occasionally. It should be planned around your pre-pregnancy fitness level. Women who have normally engaged in an exercise program before pregnancy can continue it during pregnancy (sometimes modifications are necessary). Women who were not exercising prior to pregnancy are advised to begin an exercise program.

pregnant woman swimming

The pregnant woman's center of gravity moves forward and downward, altering balance, stability, and stance. Backache, a frequent complaint of pregnancy, is directly attributable to poor posture. Hormonal changes during pregnancy soften ligaments and connective tissue that can compromise the stability and support of the spine and torso. Proper alignment prevents strain on joints. The abdominal muscles are stressed by the weight of the enlarging uterus. Keeping the pelvis in proper position protects these muscles from undue stretching and possible separation. Proper posture and alignment will assist with better lung expansion and air exchange, which may become limited by the enlarging uterus.

You need a warm-up period that slowly stretches muscles until the limit of range of motion is achieved and circulation to muscles and heart rate are increased gradually. Thirty minutes is considered a minimum time for the exercises to be effective.

After exercising, there should be a cooling down period for muscles and heart rate to return to their pre exercise state. An exercise routine with the more stressful portion in the middle helps achieve this goal. Exercises should stress control, rhythm, stabilization of the pelvis, and proper alignment of the pelvis in a posterior-tilt position. Swimming provides rhythm, controlled breathing, and water buoyancy.

drawing of a pregnant woman exercising

Drink plenty of fluids before and after you exercise.

Do not participate in a strenuous exercise program (such as running a marathon) when pregnant, if you were not doing it regularly prior to pregnancy.

Do not indulge in rapid exercises with uncontrolled momentum. Sudden or exaggerated motions will severely stress ligaments and joints that are already relaxed under hormonal influence.

Do not consider any exercises that increase the lower back curve of the spine or cause excessive compression of the uterus.

Do not exercise outdoors in hot, humid weather.

Do not bend deeply or greatly extend your joints and don't stand up abruptly.

Stop any exercise right away if you develop signs of dizziness, bleeding, faintness, abdominal or back pain, overly rapid heart rate or shortness of breath. Discuss your participation in an exercise program with your provider if you have any chronic medical disorder or the pregnancy is considered high-risk.

page last modified on: 6/4/2014

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