Pregnancy Exercises

A few weeks ago I was contacted by an OBGYN group from Columbia, Missouri, who was interested in writing a guest post for my blog about nutrition and exercise during pregnancy. I took them up on their offer to provide my readers with some expert advice. Nutrition and exercise during pregnancy are so important. The healthier you are during pregnancy the easier (in most cases) your labor and delivery are as well as your postpartum recovery. Below are some great tips from an actual OBGYN regarding food and exercise you should avoid or continue during your pregnancy. I hope you find their tips and suggestions helpful.

When women are pregnant, they usually take more interest and put more research into what they should eat and how they should exercise, and for good reason…everyone wants mom as healthy as possible over the next nine months. But there are a lot of rumors out there on what a pregnant woman should eat or avoid. Even more rumors persist on the issue of what types of exercise women can do while pregnant, or if they should even exercise at all.

These guidelines from  WHA  an OBGYN group in Columbia MO, should help dispel some of the notions about exercise and diet during pregnancy, and can hopefully give pregnant women a framework of exercise rules to work with.

Nutrition rules to remember:

Fish is OK to eat, but no more than twice a week. Also, the American Pregnancy Association advises avoiding fish that contain high levels of mercury including shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish. Fish from contaminated lakes and rivers may be exposed to industrial pollutants and should also be avoided, the American Pregnancy Association advises.

Caffeine is actually OK too, but limit that intake to no more than twice daily.

The list of foods to avoid includes unpasteurized cheese, smoked seafood, raw shellfish and raw eggs and Pate.

Exercise guidelines include:

First of all, women should continue exercising while pregnant, as long as they feel up to it. Exercise can keep mother healthy during the pregnancy and can help make the labor and delivery process easier.

While continuing exercise is good, women are not likely to have the same energy level and should pay attention to what their body is telling them. You should make sure to drink plenty of water – more than you would have before you were pregnant.

Also, take some breaks during the exercise routine. Some women use a general rule of thumb while running or walking that they should not maintain a speed that is so intense they could not hold a conversation while doing it.

For women exercising for the first time, low impact cardiovascular routines are encouraged. Many yoga clinics or instructors offer yoga specifically for pregnant women.

Water aerobics are another healthy form of exercise for women.

In terms of exercise to avoid, pregnant moms should avoid activities that are more likely to make them fall down. Contact sports should be included in that list. Also, avoid exercising to the point where you lose your breath. (This is where the rule about being able to talk while exercising can help you.)

Heavy weightlifting that could strain your back should also be avoided.

It is tempting in early pregnancy to just give into temptation and eat whatever you are craving (especially if you aren’t able to keep much of anything else down) and to give in to the urge to lay around and do nothing because you are just so darn tired all the time.  However, a recent study conducted by the health management company, Kaiser Permanente, discovered that women who put on 7 or more pounds during their first trimester had an 80% higher risk of developing gestational diabetes later in pregnancy.

The more weight you gain early in your pregnancy the more weight you will gain through your whole pregnancy.  Weight gain increases the further into the pregnancy you go, so if you pack on the pounds in those first 3 months you could find yourself in trouble later in your pregnancy.  It is important to talk to your doctor or midwife about what your weight gain expectations should be, they vary from woman to woman and depend in large part on whether you started out your pregnancy below average, average or above average in weight.

There are a few things you can start early in your pregnancy that will not only help you avoid packing on too much weight early in your pregnancy but will also help you throughout your pregnancy if you keep them up:

  • Exercise. Even if it is a just a brisk walk in the evening it will help keep you active during your pregnancy which will in turn help feel better, gain less weight and have more energy throughout your pregnancy.  Be sure to talk to your doctor before starting any exercise routine.
  • Keep a food journal.  This can also be helpful if you are suffering from morning sickness to help identify those foods which help and those that make you ill.  Keeping track of the food you take in will help you make better choices, especially if you weren’t a very healthy eater before you became pregnant.
  • Eat small meals and supplement with small snacks.  Eating throughout the day will help curb your nausea and will also, if you make healthy choices, help you control your weight gain.
  • Make healthy choices.  Avoid high fat, high calorie, high sugar foods.  Choosing lots of fresh foods like fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean meats will be good for your growing baby and will help you control your weight gain.

You should never diet during pregnancy or overdo it when it comes to exercise.  Weight gain is a part of pregnancy.  The key is to make healthy choices and stay active so that you gain a healthy amount of weight during pregnancy.  Talk to your doctor about what kinds of exercise you are cleared for.  If you aren’t sure about what constitutes a healthy diet for a pregnant woman ask your doctor for a referral to a nutritionist so you can have a guide in making the right choices.

During pregnancy there are, of course, the obvious things you need to avoid, like drugs and alcohol.  For the most part though, things in your life can stay fairly normal.  You can carry on like usual eating the foods you love, exercising, etc.  That being said, there are a few other things that are big no-no’s for pregnant women.  Things that need to be avoiding during pregnancy for your safety as well as the safety of the little person growing inside of you.

Things to avoid when pregnant:

  • Contact Sports –  You can continue exercising during pregnancy (unless advised not to by your doctor) but that doesn’t mean you can still do everything you could before you got pregnant.  If you partake in contact sports like kickboxing, martial arts, skiing, football, soccer, etc you should stop during you pregnancy.  The risk of injury to yourself and your fetus is too great with these activities.  Talk to your doctor about what sports are considered safe for you during pregnancy.
  • Hot tubs and Saunas – Water activities are great for pregnant women.  Swimming and water aerobics are great ways to get your exercise without feeling the extra weight and pressure from the pregnancy.  However, it is not safe to use the hot tub and sauna at your local pool (or any where for that matter).  The high temperatures are unsafe.  A rise in your core body temperature can lead to fetal abnormalities.
  • Raw Seafood, Sushi – Seafood, if cook and eaten in moderation, is considered safe during pregnancy.  However, sushi is not.  Raw seafood can carry parasites which could cause you to become ill or affect the fetus.  So if you have a hankering for seafood go for the cooked variety and skip the sushi.

For the most part the list of things you need to avoid is usually short.  There are more things you can continue doing versus those you need to avoid.  Be sure to talk at length with your doctor early in your pregnancy to determine what is considered safe and what you should avoid.  Be prepared for things to change during your pregnancy.  If complications arise your doctor may add a few things to that list of things to avoid.

Excercise is a very important part of a healthy pregnancy.  (Be sure to talk to your doctor before starting any exercise program during pregnancy to be sure you have the a-ok.)  Exercising during pregnancy can help with so many of the common complaints that women have during pregnancy, particularly those of late pregnancy.  Staying fit and in shape is also thought to help with labor and with postpartum recovery.

As important as exercising during pregnancy is it is also important to take a lot of extra care and caution during hot weather.  A run in the middle of the afternoon is probably not a good idea but there are many exercise programs and ideas that you can take full advantage of when the temperatures start rising.  Here are a few suggestions on fun, safe hot weather exercises for pregnant women (again, don’t forget to talk to your doctor first to make sure it is okay for you to exercise during your pregnancy):

  • Hit the gym.  Not only is it air conditioned but there are a ton of different types of workouts available.  You can work on cardio and weight training all from the comfort of the air conditioned indoors.
  • Swim.  Swimming is a great form of exercise during pregnancy.  Not only will it keep you cool but it helps take the extra weight off your joints for a little while.  You can simply swim laps or you can enroll in a water aerobics class.
  • Enroll in an aerobics class.  This will allow you to exercise in the comfort of an air conditioned building.  There are usually pregnancy specific classes available so be sure to ask about them.
  • Take up Yoga.  You can either enroll in a class or purchase a video that you can do at home.
  • Walk outside.  Be careful if this is your prefered form of exercise.  Time your walks for the coolest parts of the day and bring water with you to stay hydrated.
  • Purchase a few exercise videos that you can do at home.

No matter what form of exercise you choose to participate in during the warm summer months the most important thing to remember is to stay hydrated.  Staying hydrated will allow your body to cool itself more effectively and help you avoid getting overheated.  Also, make sure you don’t overdo it.  Know your limits and remember that you may not be able to do as much when you are pregnant.  Wear loose, comfortable clothing when you exercise.  If you are worried about exercising during your pregnancy or want to know what forms of exercise are best for you be sure to discuss it with your doctor.

Have fun and stay cool.

Exercise is important throughout pregnancy, as long as your doctor advises you it is ok, and an important aspect to any exercise program is weight training.  Weight training helps you to build up and tone your muscles and helps to build stamina.  When paired with quality cardio exercise you can really prepare yourself well for labor.

Weight training can be done using equipment at a gym, or resistance bands or free weights at home.  You should take extra care when using free weights to avoid injury from dropping the weights.  Also, remember that during pregnancy your ligaments are looser so don’t over extend your joints.

Always discuss any exercise program with your doctor prior to beginning, even if you were weight training before you got pregnant be sure to discuss it with your doctor to make sure it is ok to continue with your regular routine.

As with any exercise routine be sure you know your limits.  Now is not the time to bulk up.  The idea of weight training during pregnancy is to tone and build stamina.  During your first and third trimesters especially you will find your energy levels are not what you are used to.  If your body is telling you it has had enough, listen to it and stop.

If you are a member of a gym it isn’t a bad idea to work with a trainer the first few times to get some ideas on exercises.  Most gyms will have someone who specializes in prenatal exercises, if your gym does not be sure to tell your trainer that you are pregnant and talk about what types of exercises you should avoid.  Your doctor should be able to advise you on what exercises are ok at the various stages of your pregnancy.  You can also do some research on your own to ensure that you aren’t overdo it.

Here are a few helpful websites.