Having exercised through three of my own pregnancies, I have a particular interest in fitness for moms. Stay in shape throughout your pregnancy and regain your shape after your baby is born! Throughout my pregnancies, men and women alike approached me with many questions: “Is it safe for my wife to work out during her pregnancy?” “Can I still (fill in an exercise) when I’m pregnant?” “Can I exercise and still breastfeed my baby?” There’s a lot of myths and misinformation out there for expectant and new moms. It is one of my own personal goals to help educate and inform mothers about the benefits of exercise for their own health as well as their children’s health.
Learn more about MamaStroll stroller exercise classes.
Pregnancy can be both an exciting and nerve-wracking time. However, for women experiencing a normal, uncomplicated pregnancy, exercise is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your growing baby. If you have been exercising prior to becoming pregnant, in many cases you can continue your activities throughout the pregnancy with some modifications. The most important aspect of exercising during pregnancy is to listen to your own body. Do only what feels right to you. This is not a time to push your boundaries or try to make significant fitness gains. For women who were fit before pregnancy, think of this as a time of maintaining your current level of fitness.
If you have not been regularly exercising prior to your pregnancy, consult your doctor or midwife before beginning any type of regimen. For women with low-risk pregnancies, walking, swimming, light strength training, and yoga are generally appropriate. As your pregnancy progresses, you can expect to see some improvements in your fitness level as well as your sense of well-being. But this is not the time to begin a rigorous routine or attempt a complete “fitness makeover.”
All women should check with your doctor or midwife to find out if your exercise activities are appropriate. Some activities with high potential for falls or injury are specifically contraindicated in pregnancy, such as downhill skiing, horseback riding, and scuba diving. Activities such as group exercise classes, cardio machines, and strength training, can generally be safely attended by pregnant women.
You may find you need to make some modifications to your exercise activities during your pregnancy. In the first trimester, fatigue and nausea often keep women away from the gym. But light exercise can actually help combat these symptoms, so consider scaling back your workouts in duration and intensity before giving up completely. If your symptoms are severe enough to keep you away from your workouts for several weeks, resume them slowly when you are feeling better. Don’t expect to jump right back in where you left off. In the third trimester, a displaced center of gravity and significant weight gain often contribute to a lack of balance and general feelings of awkwardness. If this makes it difficult to attend your favorite step class or keep up your jogging routine, consider switching to an aqua aerobics class or hi-low aerobics class geared towards pregnant women. Fatigue becomes an issue again towards the end of pregnancy, so adjust your intensity and/or duration accordingly. As in the first trimester, continuing to perform some exercise may actually improve feelings of fatigue.
During any exercise, you should STOP IMMEDIATELY if you experience dizziness, abdominal cramping, bleeding, or contractions. Contact your care provider before resuming any physical activity.
Pregnancy is not a time for weight loss. Be sure to eat a well-balanced diet and consume enough calories to nourish both you and your growing baby. Drink plenty of water, not just during exercise, to maintain proper blood volume and amniotic fluid levels. Should you have any questions about what to eat during pregnancy, consult your care provider or a registered dietitian for specific advice.
Most women can safely resume exercise within a few weeks of delivery. Consult with your care provider to find out what is appropriate for your situation. Once you have been given the go-ahead to return to your workouts, remember to start back slowly. One exercise you can resume within days of the birth are Kegels. You can do them anytime, anyplace!
Research has shown that exercise does not affect breastfeeding in mothers who consume adequate water and calories for lactation. Thus you can resume your workouts without worrying about being able to feed your baby! Nurse just before your workout to prevent any discomfort, and always wear a supportive sports bra. Post-workout, shower or wash off before nursing– Sweat is full of bacteria, and not very tasty either!
Many women are concerned about postpartum weight loss. For some women, particularly those who breastfeed and/or exercise, the weight comes off relatively quickly and easily. But this is not always the case. It may take 6 months or more to lose all the baby pounds, especially if you had excess weight gain during the pregnancy. Don’t get discouraged! Through exercise and proper nutrition, the weight WILL come off.
If it is hard to find time to work out with a new baby around the house (and I know it is!), try incorporating your baby into your workouts. Try a MamaStroll class, where you can get fit and meet other new moms!