The remarkable physical changes of pregnancy can make you feel you’re losing control of your body. Not only are you bigger, but your sense of balance shifts. Exercising can give you back that control.
Exercising during pregnancy strengthens and tones muscles, helps the body work more efficiently and relieves aches and pains. Some studies suggest that aerobic exercise during pregnancy actually decreases labor time. And women who exercise during pregnancy usually regain their shape more easily after the birth.
Most pregnant women can safely begin an exercise program but must get the go-ahead from their healthcare provider first. Those who have heart problems, high blood pressure, diabetes or circulatory disorders need an individually designed program. Bleeding, dilated cervix, premature labor and rupture of the bag of waters are other reasons to use caution -- as are conditions such as placenta previa and preeclampsia. If you have a high-risk condition, your healthcare provider may refer you to an obstetric physical therapist who will develop an exercise program for you.
Choosing the Right Exercise Program
If you haven't been doing aerobic exercises regularly, a program of stretching and toning is a good way to start and can continue after your baby is born.
You can start an aerobic exercise program after the first trimester. The safest aerobic activities are walking, swimming, water aerobics and stationary bicycling. An aerobic dance class is ok if a well-qualified instructor leads it.
If you've always exercised, you can probably continue. Jogging is considered safe, but you may wish to shorten your distance or reduce your speed. Review your program with your health professional.
Activities to avoid include contact sports such as football, basketball, volleyball and baseball. Accidents sometimes happen during these games, and you want to protect yourself from injuries, particularly to the abdominal area. Also risky are tennis, racquetball, ice-skating, surfing, diving, gymnastics and adventure sports such as parachuting, mountain climbing and scuba diving. Avoid bouncy or jerky movements. Exercising to music can be fun, but slow down a beat. Your joints are looser during pregnancy, which can make injuries more likely.