The blessed event is months away. Already you’re preparing the nursery and buying unisex green and yellow baby clothes. But have you thought about how to prepare your body for the weeks and months to come? If you already exercise and are in good health, chances are your doctor will tell you to continue. If you don’t exercise, this may be a good time to start. But first your doctor needs to give you the thumbs-up.
Moderate, gentle exercise has even more health benefits for pregnant women than for others. Exercising can help a mom-to-be or a new mom:
Prevent or help control gestational diabetes
Ease symptoms such as back pain, constipation and varicose veins
Renew energy and reduce exhaustion
Lower the risk of high blood pressure
Cope with postpartum depression
Lose weight after childbirth
Who shouldn’t exercise
You’ll need to talk to your doctor before you start working out. If you have certain health conditions, working out may not be advised. Exercising could cause serious problems if you have:
Risk factors for preterm labor
Heart or lung disease
An obesity problem
Pregnancy-related high blood pressure
Had complications in previous pregnancies
Vaginal bleeding in second or third trimester
Choosing an exercise program
Most healthy moms-to-be should try to get in at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week. Choose activities you enjoy and that your doctor approves of. Some suggestions:
Walking. This is a safe way to get aerobic exercise without exhausting yourself.
Dancing. If you choose something fun, it won’t feel like a workout.
Swimming. The water will make you feel weightless, provide resistance that can keep your heart rate up, and tone and strengthen your muscles.
Cycling or hiking. These provide great aerobic activity.
Pilates or yoga. This type of exercise strengthens muscles – and helps you get back into shape after childbirth. Look for classes specifically for new moms or moms-to-be.
Exercises to avoid
Certain exercises can be dangerous for pregnant women. Don’t engage in activities that could lead to injury, such as:
SCUBA diving (which could introduce dangerous gas bubbles into the baby’s blood)
Working out safely
Help keep your exercise sessions injury-free with these tips:
Start out slowly.
Gradually increase your workout over time.
Warm up and cool down after exercise.
Try the talk test. If you can’t have a comfortable conversation while you’re exercising, bring down your intensity level.
Drink plenty of fluids before, during and after your workout.
Take breaks whenever you need them. Stop if you feel tired.
Avoid jerky movements. They can put you at risk for joint or muscle injuries
Don’t lie on your back. Exercises that require you to lie on your back can slow the blood flow to the baby. Don’t do them after your first trimester.
Don’t work out in weather that is too hot and humid. Skip your routine until the temperature is more comfortable.
Stop your workout and call your doctor at once if you experience any unusual symptoms, such as vaginal bleeding, contractions or increased fetal movement.
Once you’ve delivered your baby, don’t ditch your workout. Keep up your exercise program and discover even more health rewards. Plus, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how fast you fit back into your favorite jeans.