Yes! You will receive both immediate and long term benefits from exercising during pregnancy. Exercise increases your energy level, relieves feelings of depression, and enhances your self-esteem. Exercise during pregnancy expands your vascular volume beyond its usual expansion during pregnancy. This makes your cardiovascular system more efficient during pregnancy and labor, which may benefit you for years after pregnancy with the possible bonus of reducing cardiovascular disease later in life. In addition, exercise conveys amazing gifts to your unborn child, which also may last for years after her/his birth.
Yes! Be a woman who exercises during pregnancy, who trains for birth—your baby’s most important life event. Most of the women who currently exercise during pregnancy also exercised before pregnancy and want to continue during and after their pregnancy. If you are currently exercising, it is safe to continue at the same intensity throughout pregnancy. Women who want to start exercising during pregnancy are encouraged to start early and to gradually increase the training intensity. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced exercise buff, it is extremely important that you check with your healthcare provider, your physician or nurse midwife, about your exercise regimen. So check-in with them now, and waste no time getting started!
Now, let’s talk more about the benefits to you and to your unborn baby. Women who exercise through the third trimester have shorter labors, less chance of delivery by c-section, and less need for medications that augment labor such as Pitocin. Their babies tolerate labor better with fewer incidences of fetal distress. These newborns are calmer and leaner at birth and seem to remain so up to five years of age. Amazingly, some of the medical research shows that they are more intelligent at school age. So, start now to exercise with the commitment that you will continue until the day you go into labor.
The frequency and intensity of appropriate exercise determines how beneficial the exercise is. The best way to ascertain the training volume is to listen to your body. Most people who exercise regularly already know how to do this. For those of you who are just starting to exercise, here are a few tips. The fatigue that is related to stress or lack of sleep feels different from the fatigue from too much exercise. When you are tired from stress or lack of sleep, exercising will make you feel better. You will have more energy and feel relaxed. The fatigue from too much exercise is a relaxed sleepy feeling, which is different from the totally exhausted feeling of not having enough sleep or too much stress.
When exercising aerobically, pay attention to your level of exertion. Most exercise physiologists recommend a level of exertion to the point of feeling so breathless or short-winded that it just begins to be difficult to talk while exercising. You will need to maintain this level of exertion for at least twenty minutes, three times a week, to get the aerobic benefits. Your pulse rate is elevated during pregnancy and so is not as reliable as listening to your body.
As your pregnancy progresses, you will experience fatigue with less and less exercise. Do not try to “push through” this fatigue because too much physical exertion can increase the risk of pulling muscles or ligaments. Remember, in the later part of pregnancy, your joint ligaments loosen to allow your pelvis to expand during labor. Listen to your body and end your exercise training sessions when you feel tired. The muscle training part of exercise is just as important as the aerobic part. With propertraining techniques, you will increase muscle strength and coordination in your body’s midsection, which helps you maintain proper balance and posture. Women who exercise properly during pregnancy have less back pain.