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The truth about exercise and pregnancy

Dr. Deb Krahl has been a practicing OB/GYN for 16 years. She received her medical degree from the University of Minnesota before completing her residency training at the University of California-Irvine. She has been with Aspen Medical Group for the last nine years and is currently the lead OB/GYN physician there. She is excited to be among the OB/GYN’s delivering at The Mother Baby Center.

Regular exercise is important to keep your heart, muscles and bones healthy. Exercise is just as important during your pregnancy and can have benefits during labor as well as help you get back into shape quicker after the baby is born. During pregnancy, regular exercise can help with backaches and constipation, prevent or treat gestational diabetes and improve your moods, help you sleep better and increase your overall energy level.

With the information overload in today’s world, it can be confusing for expectant moms to know which types of exercises are safe and which ones should be avoided in pregnancy. I hope this blog post will give you sound medical tips to follow as you start or continue an exercise regimen during your pregnancy.

1. Always check with your doctor first. Touch base with your doctor before beginning an exercise program to make sure you do not have an obstetric or health problem that would limit your activity.

2. Don’t overdo it. During exercise you should be able to talk normally and keep your heart rate under 140 beats per minute to avoid overexertion.

3. Be aware of the physical changes. The hormones in pregnancy cause the joints and ligaments to become more relaxed, so avoid any jerky movements that could cause injury. Also, with the added weight of the baby bump in the front, your balance and center of gravity are altered. This can cause you to be more unstable in certain positions, which can lead to falls and injury to you or your baby.

4. Don’t exercise to lose weight during pregnancy. You can exercise in pregnancy to stay in shape and feel better, but you shouldn’t try to lose weight in pregnancy by exercising or restricting calories.

Safe exercises for everyone during pregnancy:

Walking and swimming are great ways to start an exercise program. Cycling is a very good aerobic activity but after the first trimester, you should only cycle on a stationary bike to prevent falling off a road bicycle as your belly grows. Low impact and water aerobics, as well as strength training, are also terrific ways to get or stay in shape during your pregnancy. For any exercise activity, you should avoid lying on your back or standing still for prolonged periods of time after the first trimester.

Safe exercises for individuals in good shape prior to pregnancy:

If you’re a runner, you can continue running in pregnancy but may need to modify your routine or total distance, especially in the third trimester. Talk to your doctor to get specific questions answered.

Exercises and sports to avoid during pregnancy:

Any activities where you could lose your balance and fall should be avoided in pregnancy. This includes waterskiing, downhill snow skiing, horseback riding, gymnastics, tennis and racquetball. Any contact sports such as soccer, basketball and ice hockey should be avoided. Lastly, no scuba diving or using water slides in pregnancy.

Exercise tips:

Always warm up before and cool down after you exercise. Drink plenty of water and avoid exercising in hot, humid weather. Make sure you wear comfortable clothing and a supportive bra.

What to watch for during exercise:

If you experience any of these symptoms while exercising, you need to stop and call your doctor immediately: vaginal bleeding, dizziness, chest pain, uterine contractions, leakage of fluid from the vagina or decreased fetal movement.

Exercise during pregnancy has many benefits both during the pregnancy and after delivery. Even just a brisk walk every day can make a difference. All you need is the motivation to get out there and do it.