So many of the instructions you receive seem logical when it comes to taking care of yourself during pregnancy:
-- Eat a healthy diet.
-- Refrain from smoking or mind-altering chemicals.
-- Get plenty of sleep and avoid stress.
But exercise? Does it really make a difference?
It's easy to avoid it with excuses. As a practicing midwife for almost 30 years, I've heard them all and used a few of them myself. But research has shown numerous benefits to a daily workout:
-- Appetite control
-- Promotion of better sleep
-- Weight control
-- Improved self-image
-- Relief of depression
-- Cardiovascular health
-- Improved mental function
-- Shorter, more progressive labor
-- Reduced risk of cesarean birth
Now there may be a new and important reason to include exercise in your daily routine during pregnancy. Research suggests that women who engage in any regular leisure-time physical activity are at decreased risk of preeclampsia.
Preeclampsia is a condition unique to pregnancy in which a mother develops hypertension; signs of preeclampsia include water retention and protein in the urine. She may have symptoms such as headache, edema and visual disturbances such as blurred vision, tunnel vision or sparkles of light in her visual field. In advanced cases, she may experience pain in the upper outer quadrant of the abdomen, which signifies liver involvement. In extreme cases, she may have seizures.
Mothers and babies can die as a result of severe preeclampsia. Typically, but not in every case, this condition develops in mothers who are having their first baby, and it tends to occur toward the end of the pregnancy (after 20 weeks).