Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Posted by: Gina Allison, MD
Patients often have questions about exercise and pregnancy. I enthusiastically encourage my patients to remain physically active during pregnancy! The benefits of exercise during this time are significant—it improves energy, mood and promotes healthy sleep. Exercise may reduce your risk for developing gestational diabetes, may keep your baby in a healthy weight range and may aid in your ability to cope with the discomfort of labor.
For women who exercised prior to pregnancy, pregnancy imposes very few restrictions. Activities such as walking, cycling, weight lifting and 'stair climbing' machines are all excellent because they are less jarring to your body and you can easily modify the intensity level depending on how you are feeling.
Pregnancy is a motivating time and some women find the interest and energy to pursue new activities that are particularly conducive to pregnancy, such as swimming, water aerobics and prenatal yoga. Submersion in water can relieve the sensation of heaviness that comes with advancing pregnancy and weight gain. Prenatal yoga can improve your balance, which may be altered as your body changes rapidly during pregnancy, and has minimal impact on your joints. In addition, the breathing techniques that are practiced during yoga may help you cope with labor. Contact sports, scuba diving and alpine skiing should be avoided during pregnancy.
The first and third trimesters are the most challenging time to exercise from a practical perspective. During the first trimester women may be overwhelmed by nausea and/or fatigue. This is normal and light exercise may actually help with both of these issues. During the third trimester, as the baby becomes bigger, your energy level and center of balance are affected. Activities that once seemed routine may become more difficult. This is normal and staying mobile and flexible will help you feel strong and in control of your body. I also believe that even if your workout sessions are not as long or intense as they were before pregnancy, maintaining exercise as a routine part of your life will help you return to an active life sooner after delivery.
It is especially important for pregnant women to stay hydrated during and after exercising. It is common to feel mild cramping for 15-30 minutes after exercising; however, if you feel severe or persistent abdominal pain or experience any vaginal bleeding you should stop, rest and notify your provider. There are also a few conditions that may affect pregnancy, in which case your healthcare provider may recommend that you reduce your physical activity while you are pregnant. These can include elevated blood pressure, risk factors for preterm labor and bleeding from a placenta previa, a complication of pregnancy where the placenta grows in the lower part of the uterus and covers all or part of the opening to the cervix.
For more information, read Exercise During Pregnancy published by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Dr. Gina Allison is a board-certified OB/GYN physician and surgeon who sees patients at the Tualatin, Oregon office of Women’s Healthcare Associates, LLC. In addition to general obstetrics and gynecology, her clinical interests include minimally invasive surgery, vulvar health, sexuality and lactation support. When not at work, Dr. Allison enjoys hiking, backpacking, telemark skiing, running, cooking, and home renovation. She is married and has two children.
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