Written by: Maria Banks | The Health Mamas
Once people know about your pregnancy, you begin to receive a ton of advice about what you should and should not do while pregnant. If you're anything like me, you're hearing from everyone about the many changes that will happen to your body, along with the major lifestyle changes that you need to make in order to stay safe and healthy for you and your baby. One piece of advice that is given to pregnant women is that you should be careful with physical tasks; especially during your second and third trimesters.
Many women are told to rest as much as possible in order to stay safe, however this thinking of sitting on the couch with your feet up throughout your pregnancy isn’t always necessary. In fact, ongoing research discourages this idea of always resting during pregnancy, unless it is recommended due to health reasons and medical complications. According to The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, exercise during pregnancy should be encouraged by health professionals due to the many benefits during pregnancy and to maintain optimal health. Research encourages safe participation in physical activity while pregnant as it can have positive impacts on pregnancy, labor and delivery.
1. It can ease your physical symptoms.
During pregnancy, your body will experience many physical changes. For example, a common symptom associated with pregnancy, especially towards the end of pregnancy, is swollen feet and ankles. Research has shown that staying active can help reduce the swelling. This is just one example of the many benefits of staying active while pregnant.
Other common physical symptoms that can occur during pregnancy include:
- additional weight
- postural changes
- increased breast size
- increased fatigue level
- pelvic and back pain
2. It will help you feel better, emotionally.
In addition to the physical changes, you may undergo mental and psychological changes including:
- changes to your self-esteem
- changes in your body image
- decreased moo
- heightened stress
Staying active during this time can help you address and manage these physical, mental and psychological changes.
3. It makes childbirth easier.
Labor and delivery is an active and dynamic process that challenges you mentally and physically. You want to properly prepare your mind and body for this major life changing event.
Contrary to popular belief, studies have demonstrated involvement in safe physical activity is not directly correlated with premature labor and low birth weight; it can actually have many positive impacts, including:
- greater energy levels
- increased ability to tolerate physiological and psychological stresses
- fewer physical complaints
- decreased health complications, including the most common health complication during pregnancy, gestational diabetes
- shorter and less complicated labor
- lower c-section rate
- shorter length of labor
- prevent excess weight gain
- increase sleep level
- prevention of depressive period during postpartum recovery
WAYS TO REMAIN ACTIVE DURING PREGNANCY
Remaining active looks different for everyone. If you were active prior to pregnancy, it is typically ok to continue your exercise program with caution and proper modifications. If you were sedentary prior to getting pregnant, it is typically ok to complete physical activities (walking is a great activity to begin your exercise journey).
Safe ways to stay active during pregnancy:
- Stationary bike
- Prenatal yoga and pilates
- Light weight training
- Pelvic tilts
THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN EXERCISING
Due to the changes your body undergoes during pregnancy, you have to pay special attention to how you perform activities. Remember, you want to stay safe while engaged in physical activity during your pregnancy. Also, ensure that you check with your healthcare professional prior to starting any physical activity while pregnant and listen to your body!
There are special precautions you can take to make sure you are safe; generally, consider these precautions:
- wear loose fitting clothing that wicks away sweat so you don’t become overheated
- be sure to eat a balanced meal prior to physical activity
- be careful of the environment; ensure it is not too hot
- stay hydrated by drinking adequate water
- complete physical activities that do not overly challenge your balance
Also, you must pay close attention to the specific activities that you are performing. Typically, these activities should be avoided:
- activities with increased risk of falling
- exercises that can lead to abdominal trauma
- exercises in hot environments (e.g. hot yoga)
- activities that involve jumping and bouncing
Now I’m not telling you that rest isn’t important, however you want to make sure you are engaged in some form of physical activity to help you have a healthier pregnancy, labor and delivery. Try to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity for 3-5 days/week. Whether it be a walk around your neighborhood or a full on workout. Just keep moving!
Meet the Mama: Maria is the owner of The Health Mamas. She is a certified pre and post natal fitness specialist and has a doctorate of occupational therapy. She specializes in helping adults reach their functional goals. Follow her on Instagram