Exercise During Pregnancy: Yes, You Can–and Should!

Personal trainers and health club staff across the country routinely hear all sorts of excuses for not working out. A frequent justification among women is, “I’m pregnant, I can’t exercise.” –or– “I’m trying to get pregnant, so I can’t work out.”

For most women, those are just excuses. It is true that some pregnancies have complications that require bed rest but getting in shape before becoming pregnant and working out while pregnant can often prevent the need for bed rest. Actually, exercise can eliminate many potential pregnancy risks and even help you build a healthier baby. Looking at the big picture, pregnancy and exercise go together just as much as pregnancy and bizarre cravings.

Before Conceiving

Getting in shape before you conceive will help your body handle the stress of a pregnancy.

Pregnancies are not always planned, but if you do plan on conceiving the best time to start getting in shape for the event is now. Going through a pregnancy is as hard on your body as participating in an extreme sport. If you signed up for a triathlon or to run a 10K, you would train and get in shape, right? Parents points out that making a habit of working out before getting pregnant makes it easier to continue working out while pregnant, plus getting in shape while you are trying to conceive can help your chances of success. According to the Mayo Clinic, being overweight can interfere with ovulation, which can affect your fertility. Remember, though, that an ideal weight for getting pregnant has more to do with how much fat you are carrying rather than what the scale says. If your body mass index (BMI) is 25 to 29.9, you are overweight, and a BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese. Get that number down into the 18 to 24.9 range and you will be at an optimum weight for conceiving.

Working Out While Pregnant

Yes, you can even lift weights while you are pregnant. Image via Bodyfit by Amy/YouTube

Getting in shape before conceiving and working out while pregnant will benefit you and your baby in so many ways, it’s hard to know where to start listing the advantages. First, obesity during pregnancy puts you at a higher risk for a number of complications including:

  • preeclampsia (pregnancy-related high blood pressure)
  • gestational diabetes
  • premature or overdue deliveries
  • problems during labor

Obesity also increases the chances that you will miscarry or that you will need a cesarean, and that brings a new list of increased risks such as wound infections and increased recovery time. Also, the University of Rochester Medical Center says that obesity tends to be related to vitamin deficiency, an issue that can cause health problems for both you and your baby.

Exercise during pregnancy improves your mood, your circulation and will keep nagging backaches at bay. Image via Pregnancy and Postpartum TV/YouTube

Your body will experience a number of changes during pregnancy that can be alleviated with exercise. Working out improves your circulation, which can help with typical swelling during pregnancy. Strengthening your back and core muscles will decrease your chances of developing back pain. Plus Parents.com says that working out while pregnant will give you more energy and improve your mood, chasing away the “baby blues.”

Exercise, Pregnancy, and Your Baby’s Health

Healthy, happy babies are just one reward of working out while pregnant.

Don’t feel like working out while pregnant for your own sake? Do it for the health of your baby. The Mayo Clinic says that babies born to obese women are likely to have increased body fat. That can set your baby up for a lifetime of health issues starting with weight problems but also including high risk of diabetes and heart disease. Also, obesity during pregnancy increases the chances of birth defects. According to the National Birth Defects Prevention Study, obese mothers are at a higher risk of delivering babies with a congenital heart defect and are two times as likely to have a baby with spina bifida.

The Benefits Just Keep Coming

If you have been working out while pregnant, you will be happy you did once delivery time arrives–and after, as well. According to FitPregnancy, you will be more likely to have a fairly easy delivery (as easy as expelling another human from your body can be). You will also be 55 percent less likely to need an episiotomy and 75 percent less likely to require the use of forceps. For women who exercise throughout pregnancy, labor tends to be shorter, too.

Exercise during and after pregnancy will have you slipping into your pre-pregnancy clothes sooner.

Once you are back home, you will be able to fit into your pre-pregnancy clothes quicker if you paired exercise with pregnancy. An average, healthy weight gain during pregnancy is between 25 and 35 pounds, but most of that will go away after the delivery. If you have continued working out while pregnant and stayed within the recommended weight gain, you will only have 7 to 12 pounds to lose after your baby is born. And! If you are already used to exercising on a regular basis, you should be able to lose that extra weight easily within a few months. Additionally, continuing to work out after delivery will keep those happy-mood endorphins flowing, decreasing your chances of developing post-partum depression.

Approach Pregnancy and Exercise Wisely

Consult your OB/GYN about exercise before, during, and after pregnancy. Photo by Gustavo Fring from Pexels

You should always consult your doctor before jumping into any workout program but, if you are planning to conceive, you will be in close contact with him anyway. Talk to her about your current BMI and tell him your plan for beginning an exercise regimen that you will continue throughout your pregnancy. According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, exercising up to 30 minutes a day every day of the week is a healthy plan for exercise during pregnancy. Get the green light from your OB/GYN and keep him updated for the whole nine months and beyond. Some women may have to adjust their workouts as they go, but most will be able to continue right up to delivery time.

 

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