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Pregnancy and Exercise

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Pregnancy and Exercise
Written by David Ghozland M.D., F.A.C.O.G
Being pregnant is one of the most dramatic, life changing events you can go through. Challenge yourself to be the healthiest you can.  Remember, being healthy not only makes you feel amazing, but studies have shown that your baby benefits when you exercise.

There are a whole host of reasons why exercise and proper nutrition are important during pregnancy.  Both may help prevent many complications, improve self esteem, and make your overall pregnancy easier and more enjoyable. Exercise can ease or even prevent discomfort, boost your energy and better prepare you for labor by increasing strength and stamina.

This is the introduction to our pregnancy exercise and nutrition blog.  The statements below are meant to provoke thought and comments.  We encourage you to jump in and add your experience and stories to enhance a healthier and more fulfilling pregnancy.


Getting Started, General Guidelines

When approaching exercise in pregnancy, it is best to take an approach that centers on trimesters.  Depending on your trimester, certain exercises, muscle groups, joints, and movements need to be emphasized or avoided.

If not already engaged in an exercise and nutritional program prior to pregnancy, your first trimester is the best time to start.  It’s an often difficult time filled with the emotions of the pregnancy, physiological changes to your body, nausea and many other possible obstacles.  Although these may be deterrents to exercise, they are only temporary and often improve with exercise and good nutrition.  Now is the time to begin healthy habits that will not only benefit your pregnancy, but hopefully last a life time. 

In my practice, as general guidelines, I recommend a good cardio routine that can be used as a strong base, and stress exercises that developed core muscles that will help support the growing fetus and joints that must support it.  I also recommend learning how to stretch properly before and after exercising.

The second trimester is usually everyone’s favorite time.  Gone are many of the ailments that affected you during the first trimester.  It’s a great time to continue and improve on the cardio training started in the first trimester.  It’s also a great time to start concentrating on strength training exercises emphasizing lower extremity, hip and lower back strengthening.  These focused exercises will help minimize unnecessary increases in weight and help stabilize the pressures the pregnant belly is placing on the muscles and joints. 

The third trimester is a maintenance and stretching trimester.  It’s important to continue the cardio training program at, or slightly below, our second trimester level, and as much as possible, maintain the established stretching routine used throughout the pregnancy.  Continuing your exercise routine as long as possible should help optimize your energy and allow you to maintain the strength and stamina needed for your labor and delivery.

An important consideration while participating in any exercise program is drinking plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.  It is vitally important to be careful to avoid overheating, and no matter how dedicated you are to being in shape, don't exercise to the point of exhaustion. 
Getting the OK

Before you begin an exercise program, make sure you have your health care provider's OK. Although exercise during pregnancy is generally good for both mother and baby, you'll need to proceed with caution if you have a history of preterm labor or certain medical conditions, including:

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Placenta previa
  • Any medical condition that may render exercise dangerous

Stop and talk to your health care provider if you experience:

  • Blurred vision
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vaginal bleeding

As important as it is to exercise, it's also important to watch for danger signs. Stop exercising if you notice any of the above.  If you don't feel better shortly after stopping exercise, contact your health care provider.