When planning pregnancy, most women try to think of how they can ensure a good outcome. One of the best ways to do this is through physical activity according to our top Atlanta OB/GYNs. It is recommended that all able adults perform 150 minutes of exercise every week. Less than 50% of people achieve this goal. It is well documented that regular exercise has a many benefits on physical and mental health. These benefits are also seen in patients trying to conceive and once they become pregnant.
Ideally, getting in a routine of regular exercise should begin prior to pregnancy. During a typical preconception visit, topics can include ways to improve a patient’s chances of becoming pregnant and having a healthy pregnancy. Regular exercise is a great place to start. Many of the health conditions that can negatively impact fertility and pregnancy (elevated blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, polycystic ovarian syndrome, anxiety, depression) can be improved by increasing one’s physical activity. With time and sweat, this could lessen the need for medications used to control these conditions.
Benefits Of Exercise In Pregnancy
- Improvement in stamina, endurance, body composition, flexibility.
- Avoidance of excessive weight gain in pregnancy and its consequences
- Improvement in common discomforts of pregnancy such as low back pain, joint pain, pelvic pain.
- Lowers risk of large for gestational age newborn
- Possible reduction in other complications of pregnancy such as gestational diabetes, hypertension, preeclampsia
Prior to starting or continuing your exercise routine, there are some things you should do to make this as safe and comfortable as possible.
- Check with your health care provider to ensure increasing your activity is safe. There are some conditions in pregnant and nonpregnant patients that can be worsened with strenuous activity. Your provider can also help guide you on specific exercises that may suit you better.
- Things to avoid: prolonged lying on ones back, exercises which could lead to trauma/falls.
- Ensure you have the proper gear. During pregnancy, your body will go through natural changes which can lead to added discomfort with increasing your activity. Well-fitting, supportive shoes and bras are often overlooked and can minimize discomfort down the road.
- Hydration/nutrition: When pregnant, your body doesn’t cope as well with dehydration which can occur with exercise. Make sure you are drinking enough fluids and getting proper nutrition prior to physical activity.
- Stretching: gentle stretching prior to, and after physical activity, can lessen the chance of injury to your joints and muscles.
- Start slow: If regular exercise hasn’t been a part of your routine, start slow. Try walking continuously for 5-10 minutes every day, at first, until you can start to increase the duration and intensity of your exercise.
What Kind Of, And How Much Exercise Should I Do?
- The goal is approximately 150 minutes of exercise per week. A common approach is 30 minutes per day, 5 days per week. You may need to build up to this gradually.
- Intensity: light to moderately intense activity is what most people should try for. Typically, with moderately intense activities, you are sweating but can carry on a conversation.
- Aerobic exercises: examples include walking, jogging, stationary cycling, water aerobics, swimming.
- Weight training: During pregnancy, adding some resistance/weight training can be beneficial. Focus on lightweight (<10lbs) and more repetitions instead of heavyweights.
- Yoga is a safe and common exercise for pregnant women which can benefit core/muscle strength and flexibility. Some modifications to certain positions may be needed.
When To Stop Exercising
If you have any concerning symptoms prior to, during, or after exercising, you should stop and notify your healthcare provider, such as:
- Dizziness, presyncope (feeling like you might pass out), syncope (passing out)
- Shortness of breath, trouble catching your breath, wheezing
- Vaginal bleeding
- Regular contractions
- Loss of fluid vaginally
- Chest pain
- Abdominal pain