Expecting moms may be eating for two, but Dr. Richard Thompson, of Novant Health OB/GYN in Bolivia, North Carolina, wants his patients to remember that they should be exercising for two, as well.
Participating in a moderate exercise routine during all stages of pregnancy is not only safe, it has been shown to have many health benefits for both mom and baby. As is true for all adults, being physically active helps improve posture, relieve stress, lower blood pressure and alleviate fatigue, but for expecting mothers, the benefits go even further.
Exercising can relieve pregnancy-related aches and pains, help build the strength and stamina needed for labor and delivery and help moms-to-be manage weight gain. A recent study even suggests that exercising regularly during the early stages of pregnancy may prevent gestational diabetes.
How much exercise do expecting moms need?
Thompson recommends that pregnant women continue to follow the Department of Health and Human Services exercise guidelines for adults and aim for 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity a week.
“If you were exercising before becoming pregnant, it is safe to continue your regular program,” Thompson said. “If not, start slow with low-impact exercises like walking or swimming and work your way up.”
A woman’s body goes through many changes during her pregnancy, and some adjustments might affect her exercise routine. The developing baby and internal systems require more oxygen and energy during a woman’s pregnancy, and some women find they need to take more frequent breaks while exercising. The extra weight and uneven distribution of weight will also cause a shift in the center of gravity as the pregnancy progresses, making it more likely for expecting moms to lose their balance.
Are there any risks?
To keep mom and baby safe, Thompson advises that pregnant women avoid high-contact sports where they risk trauma to their abdomen and to also avoid lifting more than 30 pounds.
“If at any point during your exercise routine you experience pelvic pain, cramping similar to that of menstrual cramps or vaginal bleeding, stop and call your doctor immediately,” he said.
Pregnant women are also more susceptible to dehydration, so Thompson recommends drinking eight to 10 glasses every day and paying close attention to thirst while exercising.
“Exercising while pregnant is safe and encouraged, but if you have any concerns about starting or continuing an exercise program, be sure to consult your physician,” Thompson said.