Exercise During Pregnancy: Get Moving

Exercise During Pregnancy: Get Moving

Should you exercise during pregnancy? A good rule of thumb is that if everything is going well, you can do almost any exercise you were doing before you got pregnant. And if you weren't exercising, then now's the time to start.

Exercise strengthens and tones muscles, some of which you'll be using during your labor and birth. Pregnancy exercise also increases the circulation of blood between you and your baby, decreases many of the discomforts you may experience during pregnancy (such as backache), improves your energy level, and helps you feel good emotionally.

Safety First

While exercise is great for you and your baby, there are a few precautions you should take. Here are some tips from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG):

  • Start slowly, with as little as 5 minutes a day, and work up to about 30 minutes.
  • Always include a warm-up and a cool-down period (in addition to the 30 minutes of exercise).
  • Avoid forced, passive stretches, such as reaching for your toes or doing hamstring stretches. Pregnancy hormones make your joints looser, so overstretching which can cause a muscle injury is a greater risk during pregnancy.
  • Avoid sudden jerking or bouncing movements or quick changes in position.
  • Limit aerobic activity to the low-impact variety, especially if you weren't exercising regularly before getting pregnant. Brisk walking, swimming, and riding a stationary bicycle are good choices.
  • If you take an aerobics class, exercise only on wood or tightly woven carpeted surfaces, and be sure the instructor knows you're pregnant.
  • Protect your abdominal and lower-back muscles by using good posture and by avoiding exercises that will strain them, like sit-ups or raising both legs off the floor at the same time. Instead, do abdominal toning exercises (see below).
  • Avoid overheating: Drink plenty of water, and don't exercise in hot, humid conditions.

And remember, always check with your healthcare provider before starting any new exercise routine during pregnancy.

Birthing Exercises

You can perform these two easy exercises each day to prepare your muscles for the big job of giving birth.

1. Abdominal toning. Working on the abdominal muscles is important, as they will be involved in the work of pushing your baby out during the second stage of labor.

Sit tall in a chair. Raise your left knee up as high as you can while at the same time raising up your right arm; hold for several seconds. Repeat using your right knee and left arm. Do 10 sets, several times each day.

2. Kegels. These can be done anywhere, anytime, without anyone knowing! They help the pelvic floor muscles become more elastic so your baby can pass through your pelvis more easily during birth.

To do Kegels, contract the muscles around your urethra, vagina, and rectum (imagine you're trying to prevent yourself from urinating). Hold for several seconds, then release. Repeat in sets of 10, several times each day.

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