There was a time when exercising during pregnancy was considered taboo. Women were told to be careful and take it easy. Today's pregnant woman knows that a healthy pregnancy, that includes exercise, results in both physical and emotional benefits.
Even though exercising during pregnancy does not ensure you of an easy labor and delivery, it can help relieve some of the more common problems pregnant women face such as excessive weight gain, varicose veins, leg cramps, swelling of the hands and feet, and fatigue.
Pre-natal exercise can also improve circulation, enhance muscular balance, reduce swelling, strengthen abdominal muscles, enhance muscular balance, and ease postpartum recovery.
A well-designed program requires a solid understanding of physiological and anatomical changes that occur during pregnancy. For this reason, make sure your instructor is certified and also has specialized training in pregnancy and exercise. A pregnant women's body changes posture, alignment and has reduced strength and endurance. An instructor trained in pre/post natal fitness will take this into consideration and put together a program that is safe for you and your baby.
When you begin to exercise while pregnant, you need to exercise within the limitations of pregnancy, making sure you have correct posture, avoid straining, and do not overexert to the point of fatigue. Pregnant women can perform low impact aerobic exercise every other day.
Walking is one of the best exercises for this. Make sure you slowly warm up and stretch before your aerobic session.
Swimming is also a great choice for pregnant exercise. My prenatal clients' enjoy the comfort they feel of the buoyancy effect that supports their weight. In the water the muscles are in a relaxed, non-weight bearing position and this can be a relief to women who are feeling more pelvic pressure and stress due to pregnancy.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends working out consistently for three times a week with an intensity not exceeding a heart rate of 140 beats per minute. One reason for this is if a maternal core temperature rises to an unsafe level, it can cause the fetus harm. The fetus does not have a mechanism to cool itself.
A prenatal exerciser should have a program that focuses on strengthening muscles to lessen the chance of joint and ligament injury.
During pregnancy there is an increase of hormones, one of them being relaxin, which loosens joints to prepare for the birthing process. This is why it is important not to make abrupt directional changes. While you are pregnant, do not try to improve your flexibility. Instead, focus on increasing circulation, relaxing through gentle stretches, and lessening discomfort of postural change.
A complete prenatal fitness program includes a safe resistance segment that uses low weights and high repetitions. You can maintain or increase muscular strength and endurance. Strengthening should be done seated, side lying, and standing, as much as possible. Proper breathing is important, as sustained breath holding can divert blood from the womb to working muscles, potentially harming the fetus.
There are specific red flags you should be aware of while exercising. If you should experience any of the following symptoms during exercise, stop and call your physician immediately: vaginal bleeding, shortness of breath, back or hip pain, difficulty walking, amniotic fluid leakage, persistent nausea or vomiting, palpitations, increased uterine contractions, or numbness anywhere in your body.
An exercise program for pregnant woman should follow guidelines from the ACOG. The program should be individualized and include a health assessment and a physician's approval to exercise. Be sure to discuss your fitness goals with your OBGYN.
Maternal fitness and well-being can be enhanced by exercise although there is no conclusive level of exercise that demonstrates an improved perinatal outcome. But, it may benefit the pregnant woman later, in the form of a quicker recovery and increased sense of well-being. Working out while pregnant is about you and not the baby. You need to be consistent and follow an appropriate and modified fitness program. If you cannot, it is better to not workout at all than to risk injury to yourself or your baby.
There is plenty of time to focus on fitness. Enjoy the nine-month process. If you can't exercise, for whatever reason, then enjoy this short but amazing time. Then, refocus on fitness after the birth. If you can workout, focus on a safe routine that is safe for your baby and makes you feel good physically and emotionally.
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