Exercise During Pregnancy
Recently, I read an article citing a 2002 report by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). It stated that pregnancy is no longer a condition for confinement.
Confinement? Really? As recently as 2002, pregnancy was considered a condition for confinement? It sounds like a statement from the times when menstruating women were sent away from the village.
Yes, pregnancy is no longer considered a time when women should stay in bed, resting and hiding away from the rest of the world. It is now recommended that healthy, pregnant women get out and aboutthat moving around and doing moderate exercise is a great thing for a pregnant woman and her baby. The benefits of moderate exercise while pregnant are increased stamina, fewer aches and pains, faster recovery after delivery, a better overall mood, and prevention of excess weight gain. Most women who were regularly active before they got pregnant and are experiencing a healthy pregnancy can continue to exercise throughout their nine months.
Before beginning an exercise program, get clearance from your doctor. It never hurts to get the official okay. Topics to discuss with your doctor can be the ACOG contraindications to exercise:
- Hemodynamically significant heart disease
- Restrictive lung disease
- Incompetent cervix/cerclage
- Multiple gestation at risk for premature labor
- Persistent second or third trimester bleeding
- Placenta previa after 26 weeks gestation
- Premature labor during the current pregnancy
- Ruptured membranes
- Pregnancy-induced hypertension
- Severe anemia
- Unevaluated maternal cardiac arrhythmia
- Chronic bronchitis
- Poorly controlled type 1 diabetes
- Extreme morbid obesitiy
- Extreme underweight
- History of extremely sedentary lifestyle
- Intrauterine growth restriction in your current pregnancy
- Poorly controlled hypertension/preeclampsia
- Orthopedic limitations
- Poorly controlled seizure disorder
- Poorly controlled thyroid disease
- Heavy smoker
ACOG recommends that healthy pregnant women with no contraindications use the same Centers for Disease Control guidelines as everyone else30 minutes or more per day of moderate exercise, most days of the week.
So what does “moderate exercise” mean? There is no longer a specific heart rate pregnant women should stick to. The intensity of the exercise is specific to the woman. Pregnant women can use the “talk test” to assess how hard they are exercising. If you can talk while you are exercising, but it is becoming difficult to speak without effort, that is considered “moderate exercise.” You can still do many types of aerobic exercise while pregnant.
There are some things to think about when you exercise. Pregnant women should consume adequate water before and during a workout, exercise in moderate temperatures, never exercise on an empty stomach, not hold their breath while exercising, and avoid heated pools, saunas, and steam rooms. Be aware of changes in your blood sugar levels. If it is 95 degrees outside, perform your exercises in the air conditioned gym.
When you are pregnant and exercising, be careful to use common sense and not get too crazy. Now is not the time to take up extreme sports. Jogging, light resistance training, or dancing is fine. Rugby, rough contact sports, and downhill skiing on treacherous mountains are not fine. I recently met a pregnant woman who did a lot of yoga prior to her pregnancy. She said she had asked her doctor if she could continue to do headstands while she was pregnant. Her doctor said this was okay as long as she did not fall. The lesson here is that if you are unsure of your ability to safely perform an exercise, it is probably best not to do it.