Pregnancy is a time of great change. As your body adjusts to the needs of a growing child, you feel different, you look different, and your excitement and anxiety increase. This may change your normal routine, including the way you exercise.
However, it’s important to stay active throughout your pregnancy, as long as you don’t have any complications that would make exercise ill-advised. While you may not be able to run a marathon while pregnant, or bench press 200 pounds (should you ever?), the right exercises and activities keep your body limber and healthy enough for an uneventful, happy delivery.
At Florida Woman Care of Jacksonville — with two offices in Jacksonville, Florida — our expert OB/GYNs, Daniel McDyer, MD, FACOG, and Julian Stephen Suhrer, MD, recommend that most healthy women exercise before, during, and after pregnancy. Here’s how exercise can keep you fit and make childbirth easier.
Exercise gives you energy
A common complaint during pregnancy is fatigue. After all, you’re carrying around extra weight and your body is working hard to nourish and support a developing person.
When you stay active and exercise safely and according to your trimester, you help your cardiovascular system — including your blood vessels — stay strong and flexible. Exercise also helps you build muscle, which burns fat for energy.
Exercise eases back and joint pain
When your core muscles are strong, your back is better able to support your spine as your belly grows. A strong core also helps distribute your body weight so that you don’t put too much stress on your joints as you get larger. Another bonus: Exercise reduces your risk for varicose veins.
Exercise helps you sleep
Regular exercise tends to improve sleep even when you’re not pregnant. During pregnancy, hormonal shifts and the discomfort of your growing “bump” sometimes makes sleep elusive. A safe and healthy exercise routine helps you get the Zs you need to repair your body.
Burning off excess energy during the day through exercise helps your body and mind relax. You’re able to sleep more deeply so you can awaken fresh and rested.
Exercise helps you avoid excessive weight gain
Exercise stimulates your metabolism so you burn excess fat and gain muscle. Even though you’re “eating for two,” gaining too much weight puts you at risk for complications, such as gestational diabetes.
Work with your health practitioner to design a healthy diet and exercise plan during pregnancy. Recommended gains depend on your pre-pregnancy weight:
- Stable, healthy weight — gain about 25-35 pounds
- Overweight — gain no more than 15-25 pounds
- Underweight — gain from 28-40 pounds
If you’re having multiple babies, you’ll need to gain more weight, of course.
Exercise eases childbirth
Women who exercise during their pregnancy tend to have easier births. Their stronger muscles and cardiovascular system allow them to tolerate the contractions and pain better than inactive women do. During delivery, fit women have:
- Fewer medical interventions
- Shorter labor
- Less exhaustion
- Reduced risk for gestational diabetes
- Reduced risk for preterm birth
Exercise gives you the endurance you need to deliver a child vaginally.
How to exercise when pregnant
Most active women should be able to maintain an exercise routine that’s close to their pre-pregnancy activities. However, keep the following guidelines in mind:
- Avoid bouncing exercises
- Always warm up and cool down
- Stay hydrated throughout your exercise routine
- Wear a sports bra
- Consider a pregnancy support belt
- Avoid overheating, especially in the first trimester
- Avoid lying on your back
- Don’t engage in contact sports
- Avoid excessive workouts
Exercises that are safe throughout your pregnancy include:
- Stationary bike
- Modified yoga
- Modified pilates
Always let your gym teacher or personal trainer know that you’re pregnant so they can show you modifications that work for your body. If you’re a runner or athlete, your health practitioner can help you find a safe way to stay fit during pregnancy.
If you’re pregnant, we help you find the right exercises and diet to stay healthy and keep your baby healthy, too. Contact our supportive team today for pregnancy care at our Jacksonville, Florida, location nearest you. Or, use our online appointment form.