Pregnancy Exercise Guidelines: Misconceptions About Physical Activities During Pregnancy

Your mom says she never lifted a finger during either of her pregnancies and wants you to lie down right now, young lady. Your best friend's planning a ski trip during her second trimester and has invited you to come along. What's a pregnant gal to do? Let some sound advice clear up your misconceptions '- and ease your mind '- about everyday activities that suddenly come into question during pregnancy.

For a woman with no obvious risks or complications, regular mild to moderate exercise can work wonders. Exercise during pregnancy, especially during the third trimester, can reduce your rate of weight and fat gain, and it can help alleviate pregnancy ailments such as nausea, heartburn, leg cramps, insomnia, edema, hemorrhoids and round ligament pain (side aches). You're also likely to feel better physically as your pregnancy progresses, and you'll get a little psychological lift.

Your baby should not suffer as long as you follow a few pregnancy exercise guidelines, including those from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists:

-- Regular mild to moderate exercise three times per week is preferable to an irregular schedule.
-- After the first trimester, avoid exercise that has you lying on your back.
-- Exercise capabilities decline in pregnancy, so it is important to listen to your body.
-- Choose exercises that don't require great balance. Your coordination and center of gravity are changing throughout pregnancy.
-- Avoid any exercise that poses a risk of even mild abdominal trauma. (Sorry, pole vaulting is out.)
-- Maintain an adequate diet. Pregnancy requires an additional 200 to 300 calories per day.
-- Dress appropriately and drink lots of water; do not exercise in the heat of the day or night, or if it is very humid.
-- Return to pre-pregnancy routines gradually. Recovery after delivery takes four to six weeks for a vaginal birth and up to 10 to 12 weeks for a cesarean.
-- Keep tracking your weight gain. Too little can mean your workout regimen is too rigorous. Get advice from your practitioner about cutting back your workouts without cutting them out altogether. And avoid exercises that could involve a fall, like horseback riding, skiing or sky diving.

Stop exercise if you experience any bleeding, vaginal water loss, redness in your calf area, heart palpitations, rise in blood pressure, abdominal pain, persistent contractions or sudden swelling in the ankles, hands or face. Barring any of these issues, you should be able to exercise, with your health care provider's permission, right through your third trimester.

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