Exercising During Pregnancy

As I approach my mid twenties it seems like everyone I know is getting married or having babies. Anyone else in that weird part of life? Anyways, this means that my newsfeeds have seen a huge increase in baby bump pics. And along with it a new hastag which caught my attention. Maybe you've also heard of the #fitpregnancy movement. If not, watch this video for one of the ultimate fit moms! 

During pregnancy, the woman's body releases hormones which make the ligaments and joints more lax in preparation for birthing. But that's not enough to explain that yogi momma's flexibility. I bet she's been doing yoga well before she was pregnant. Does that mean every pregnant woman should be trying to do this? Nope, but ideally every pregnant woman should be active! 

Exercise during pregnancy has been shown to help control gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy), and possibly weight gain. Fit mommies may also benefit from improved mood and energy, having smaller babies, and easier births.

Ok before anyone panics, I want to clarify the "smaller baby" point. Several studies found that women who exercise during the entire pregnancy have babies that weigh 200-400grams (~0.44 to 0.88 pounds) less than those women who didn't. That's a relatively small difference which may or may not make for an easier delivery. 

Can all pregnant women exercise?

The short answer is just about! All those benefits I mentioned come from position statements from obstetricians and gynecologists. These statements are put out by lead authorities and are based on the latest research available. Their purpose is to give clinicians the latest guidelines for clinical practice. 

If you are pregnant you should talk to your doctor about exercise. Your doctor should ask you questions about your level of physical activity before pregnancy and the type, intensity, and duration of exercise you want to engage in. Based on that information and your medical history, the doctor should be able to may make recommendations specific to your situation, especially if you have a high risk pregnancy. 

Healthy women who were exercising before they got pregnant and who have an uncomplicated pregnancy should be fine to continue with their current level of activity. If you were sedentary before pregnancy and have an uncomplicated pregnancy, you should be able to start with 15min sessions of physical activity 3 times a week. Slowly work your way up to 30mins of activity daily. 

Women with the following medical conditions will require an individualized and medically supervised exercise program. 

SupervisedPregnancyConditions

What types of exercises should pregnant women do? 

Safe exercises include walking, jogging, pool exercise (in water temps that do not exceed 35 degrees celsius or 95 degrees Farenheit), strength training, and modified yoga/pilates. 

Pregnant women should NOT go scuba diving because the baby isn't protected from decompression or gas embolisms (gas bubbles in the blood stream). Fit mommies should also avoid activities which may result in a fall/cause trauma to the fetus such as contact sports (soccer, rugby, football), horseback riding, skiing, etc.

Guidelines for physical activity

These guidelines are based on the Royal College of Obstetricians recommendations for exercise in pregnancy 2006. 

  • Stay hydrated when you exercise. 
  • To prevent low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) from exercise, make sure you have an appropriate snack available or limit your exercises sessions to <45mins. 
  • Avoid exercising outdoors in high heat, hot yoga, saunas and hot tubs especially during the first trimester. These high temps have been associated with a higher chance of your baby having defects in the neural tube, which forms the baby's nervous system. Don't worry, exercise on it's own will not raise your body temp that high.
  • Do not lay flat on your back for >2-3mins, especially the further along you are in your pregnancy. In this position the baby will press on you vena cava (main vein in your body) which limits/cuts off your blood supply.

Keep in mind that you know how you feel better than anyone else. It's normal for your energy levels to vary during the pregnancy. Your fitness level is naturally going to drop a little once you are in your third trimester. Pregnancy is not the time to use a "no pain no gain" workout mentality. Stay active and listen to your body! 

Are you currently pregnant and working out? Did you know this when you were pregnant? Comment below with your experience! 

Resources: 

Exercise in Pregnancy Statement by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists 2006. PDF available here and by clicking the pink photo above. (Note, I believe there is a 2015 version but unfortunately I was not able to get it.)

Physical Activity and Exercise During Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists 2002.