The Truth About Exercising During Pregnancy
Exercising during pregnancy isn’t easy. Often, you feel out of breath and get tired much faster than you did pre-pregnancy. Some exercises and activities that were doable pre-pregnancy feel downright impossible. All of this can make exercise frustrating. (I’m experiencing the challenges and frustrations with exercising during pregnancy firsthand – read my first trimester experience here).
The majority of pregnant women respond by stopping exercising altogether or just doing prenatal yoga. For the women who stop exercising, it then turns into a vicious cycle: by not exercising, their bodies become more vulnerable to aches, pains and pregnancy complications, which leads to more sitting and inactivity, which leads to more aches and pain and often weight gain over healthy levels, making exercise even more difficult and making them even less likely to be active.
A brief aside to talk about prenatal yoga. Please don’t interpret what I’m saying as “anti prenatal yoga.” Prenatal yoga is great and definitely can be one part of a prenatal exercise program, but it shouldn’t be the entire program. It is simply not enough and doesn’t provide the benefits to mom and baby that a complete exercise program does. A complete prenatal exercise program should include: cardiovascular exercise, strengthening, stretching, childbirth preparation exercises and relaxation/breathing. This next part might be a bit controversial. I think a lot of women do prenatal yoga because it’s easy…or, easier than other types of exercise during pregnancy. Since yoga is a type of exercise, I think a lot of pregnant women try it, see how much easier it is than other types of exercise, and rationalize in their minds that it’s okay if that’s all they do. Additionally, even in 2013, our culture still thinks of pregnancy as a “delicate condition” that necessitates minimal exertion. So, the decision to only do prenatal yoga is rationalized even further by a culture telling moms to take it easy.
I’m passionate about moms sticking with a complete prenatal exercise program because I know how incredibly beneficial it is for both mom and baby. For moms, exercising regularly during pregnancy can reduce the risk of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, preterm birth, physical discomforts, postpartum depression, decrease the need for medical interventions during labor/delivery, help keep weight gain within healthy levels and make it easier to lose both fat and weight after pregnancy. Babies of moms who exercise regularly during pregnancy are more likely to be healthy and calm with improved neurological development and less likely to develop future weight problems.
To reiterate, I know exercising during pregnancy isn’t easy. It might be for some women, but it sure isn’t for the majority. My recommendation is to try out a bunch of different types of activities: go for a walk, take a hike, try out a Zumba class, take a prenatal strength class, get a prenatal exercise DVD. Figure out what you enjoy and what makes you feel good. Make sure your program is complete and if you’re not sure, get help from a perinatal exercise specialist. I can’t speak for other specialists, but at Fit for Expecting, we review exercise programs for a minimal cost and make recommendations for altering the program for pregnancy or filling any gaps that exist. Help is out there, all you need to do is ask.
Keep reminding yourself that what you’re doing is improving your health and giving your baby the very best foundation for a healthy life. That is priceless.