You may have seen that woman in the Spinning™ class—as her pregnant belly expands week after week, she raises the handlebars up and continues on. Or you read about the eight-month pregnant woman who completed a marathon. These can be both inspirational and intimidating stories. The truth is that exercise is important during pregnancy. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends exercise for pregnant women at least 30 minutes a day most days of the week. But you don’t have to be an Olympic athlete to enjoy the benefits of exercise.
Pregnant woman have many choices for staying fit during pregnancy, as long as they take some precautions. As with all exercise programs, first check with your doctor or midwife to make sure before you start. He or she may have some advice or suggestions. Your provider may actually advise you against exercise if you have certain risks.
Low impact exercise can have great benefits for pregnant women. Exercise can help relieve back pain, boost your mood, help you sleep and increase your stamina. These are just a few of your choices:
If you are not a regular exerciser before you get pregnant, you may be more motivated now to keep yourself and your baby healthy. You can start small by simply taking short walks in your neighborhood. Add small spurts of activity throughout your day—take the stairs instead of the elevator, or park your car further from the entrance of the building.
If you were already attending a yoga class before you got pregnant, be sure to tell the instructor that you are pregnant. You should generally avoid asanas, or poses, on your back after your first trimester. Be particularly careful with balance poses, as your center of gravity shifts in your second trimester. You should also avoid Bikram, or “hot,” yoga.
St. Luke’s Women’s Center offers prenatal yoga classes specially suited for women at all stages of pregnancy. Click here to see the schedule and get more information.
An integral part of yoga is Pranayama (Prana- Life Force and Ayama- Expanding or lengthening). It is very important, regardless of which pose you are in, to concentrate on your breath. Most of us have a tendency to hold our breaths during a pose because we are trying too hard to be in the pose. You should be able to breathe with ease in any pose. If the breath is restricted, scale back on the pose and start again. Always be mindful of how your body and mind feels in the pose. There should be a quietness in the mind as you are holding the pose.
At the end of the lesson always practice Shavasana (corpse pose) which brings awareness to your body and breath. This pose needs to be modified slightly in pregnancy by tilting your body to one side so that you are not lying flat on your back.
Swimming is an excellent, low-impact aerobic exercise that works every muscle. You may be concerned about swimming in a chlorinated pool while you’re pregnant. If the pool is managed by a reputable gym, and the chemicals are properly balanced, the risk should be minimal. However, you may also want to consider a saline water pool.
Generally you should listen to your body. If you feel discomfort, simply stop. You will likely need to adjust and modify your exercises throughout your pregnancy, but with good instructors and guidance from your health care provider, you can remain fit and active.