Staying active and fit while your little bambino marinates is one of the best steps you can take to keep you and your baby happy and healthy — anyone who says otherwise shouldn’t be giving advice (unless it’s your doctor, then listen to your doctor). As long as you and your baby are healthy and the pregnancy is going well, exercise is perfectly safe and can and should be performed regularly. Just to err on the side of caution, here are a few guidelines to keep you and your love muffin flourishing.
1. Do it Right
It’s always tempting to skip the warm-up and cool-down portion of a workout, but they’re important, especially when you’re pregnant. The warm-up prepares your body for exercise while the cool-down brings everything back to a resting state. Spending five to 10 minutes before and after your workout will reduce your chances of injury or any other event that a sudden burst of physical activity may bring on.
2. Mind Your Body
Most types of exercise are acceptable when there’s a bun in the oven; however, it’s always critical to listen to your body. If a movement feels wrong or causes any pain or discomfort, you probably shouldn’t be doing it. It’s also important to remember that pregnancy brings on a cascade of hormones including relaxin, which causes the connective tissue around your joints to soften and expand – good for delivering a baby but not so good for supporting your body. You may be more susceptible to injury during pregnancy so just keep that in the back of your mind when deciding how far to push yourself. Oh, and the girls, they’re going to get big and sore and a high-support bra will be your new BFF. Mothers to be should also work on their biceps and triceps, because they will have to get used to picking up and putting the baby.
3. Choose Wisely
When it comes to choosing which type(s) of exercise to engage in during those long nine months, your best bet is to go with what sounds good (aside from tackle football and scuba diving of course). Walking is a great way to get your heart rate up with killing your joints. Yoga, Pilates and water activities are excellent for those moms-to-be who have frequent pregnancy-induced aches and pains. Weight training should also be a staple in your pre-natal training program. Not only will it prepare you physically for the rigors of motherhood, it can even help you keep off any unnecessary pregnancy weight; a study published in the International Journal of Obesity found strength training during pregnancy significantly lessened maternal weight gain. Just avoid holding your breath during the exercises.
4. Eat, Drink and Be Merry
As you’ll probably notice, if you haven’t already, your appetite has a tendency to increase as your baby bump grows. Including regular exercise into your routine will further increase your caloric needs. Even if you already eat more than a horse, be sure to indulge in a pre-workout snack (one that includes a good balance of carbs and protein is ideal) to fuel you through your workout, keep your blood sugar stable and reduce your chances of a hangry melt down on the poor guy ahead of you in line at the smoothie bar. Proper hydration during your pre-natal workouts is also a must to keep babes from getting too hot – the American Council on Exercise recommends pregnant women drink at least six to eight ounces of water every 15 to 20 minutes during activity.
5. What You Should Not Do
While exercise is hands-down a great stress reliever, sleep inducer, and all around awesome thing to do when you’re pregnant, there are a few things that should be avoided. First and foremost, never train to exhaustion – if you’re tired, hungry, and dehydrated, so is your baby. If you experience abdominal pain or bleeding during exercise, stop immediately and see your doctor. Because it can reduce blood flow to your little person, avoid doing exercises on your back after the first trimester. Lastly, while it’s OK to continue an exercise program into pregnancy, starting an exercise regimen after you become pregnant may be too stressful for mom and baby (unless Doc advises otherwise).
Now that you know how to exercise during your pregnancy, take a few minutes to read up on eating for two.
References: “Pre- and Post-Natal Fitness: A Guide for Fitness Professionals from the American Council on Exercise.” Lenita Anthony. 2002.