Exercising is important. After all, health organizations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to the American Heart Association make conscientious efforts to promote active lifestyles.
However, add pregnancy to the equation, and suddenly the line between the benefits and risks of exercising becomes somewhat blurred. The following list of do’s and don’ts should clear things up a bit.
DO: Talk with Your Doctor
Before you do anything, be sure to have a conversation with your healthcare provider. While most women can continue an exercise routine that closely mimics their pre-pregnancy routine, it’s not for everyone. Your doctor can provide guidance about stretches and activities that you should add to or remove from your routine.
DON’T: Be Afraid
Exercise and pregnancy usually play well together. Physical activity hasn’t been shown to increase the risk of problems such as early delivery, low birth weight or miscarriage. In fact, continuing to work out actually comes with benefits such as decreased risk of gestational diabetes and preeclampsia, improved constipation symptoms, decreased back pain, and better overall health.
DO: Perform Kegel Exercises
Kegel exercises are excellent for strengthening the supportive muscles around the uterus, bladder and bowels, as well as the vaginal muscles. Women who perform Kegel exercises report an easier birth experience. The exercise involves keeping your pelvic floor muscles contracted for 10 seconds before relaxing. Repeat this pattern 10 to 20 times to complete one set. Kegel routines can be done at red lights, in waiting rooms or while watching television at home.
DON’T: Forget to Stretch
If a sore back accompanies your pregnancy, or if you have aching legs or swollen ankles, taking a moment to stretch may be the answer. Specifically, focus on stretches that work the main problem areas:
- Lower and upper back
Numerous stretches are available for each of these areas, but avoid those stretches that put you at risk of falling or overextending. Speak with your doctor if you’re unsure.
DO: Take a Seat
Even when you’re taking a load off, you can be helping your body prepare for birth. A tailor sit is one example. It involves sitting on the floor with your knees bent and ankles crossed. Once seated, lean slightly forward while keeping your back straight and relaxed. This seated position can improve strength and flexibility in the muscles of your back, thighs and pelvis.
DON’T: Get Discouraged
As your pregnancy progresses, you may find that there are exercises you can no longer do. However, keep in mind that there are plenty of pregnancy-specific stretches and routines that you can do to keep yourself strong and flexible.