Pregnancy Not an Excuse to Skip Exercising

But mothers-to-be are advised to choose exercises more carefully

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

Pregnant exercisingMany aspects of a woman’s life change during pregnancy; however, the need for exercise doesn’t. Taking nine months off from fitness doesn’t benefit mom or baby.

“We strongly recommend 20 to 30 minutes of aerobic exercise daily,” said physician Gil Farkash, chief of OB-GYN for Kaleida Health. “They tend to have less post-partum depression, diabetes and obesity, and better deliveries and healthier pregnancies.”

Regular exercise can also relieve backache, reduce swelling and improve mood.

Of course, pregnant women should take precautions with exercise. Kicking off a campaign to lose weight and getting into shape once pregnant isn’t recommended.

“As a rule, it depends on your level of fitness before pregnancy,” Farkash said. “I’ve had some who are marathon runners who continue to run until they go into labor.”

For example, a pregnant woman accustomed with running miles a day can likely handle more exercise than one who has never exercised.

“If you’re pregnant and you want to start exercising, you may need to modify it because your body isn’t used to exercising,” Farkash said.

He added that the few contraindications to exercise or activity during pregnancy include contact sports, like hockey, soccer, and martial arts sparring.

Activities with a likelihood of falling, such as inline skating, skiing, horseback riding are also ill advised. Even diving or surfing can place too much impact on the body. Scuba diving is also off limits since babies can experience decompression sickness upon the mother’s surfacing. Women should also avoid lying on their backs after the first trimester.

Farkash suggested swimming, walking and other low impact exercise.

Some activities may be modified. A yoga routine could be altered to skip positions that involve lying flat on the back or abdomen.

Lori Gehl childbirth educator, doula, child birth midwife assistant and owner of WNY Childbirth, said that the general point of exercise is to remain healthy, not to be too aggressive or too complacent. “One of the most important things is to create a strong body but not doing it in a way that will be too intense.”

She said women need to listen to their bodies. Just as when they’re not pregnant, expectant mothers should make sure they stay well hydrated before during and after exercise. Warming up and stretching should be part of every exercise routine. In addition to aerobic exercise, strength training helps keep bodies healthy.

“If you have headache, dizziness, chest pain or contractions, back off,” Gehl said. “Use the same precautions as when you’re pregnant.”

Doctors generally place more restrictions on pregnant women at risk for preeclampsia, previous premature delivery, cervical or placenta problems, bleeding, severe anemia or growth restricted babies.

Women should stop exercising and immediately contact their doctors if they experience vaginal bleeding or leaking, pain in the calves, feelings of dizziness, undue shortness of breath, irregular or rapid pulse, or lowered fetal movement.

Even without elevated pregnancy risks, pregnant women should discuss their exercise plans with their doctors so that they can keep themselves and their babies healthy and safe.