Effects of Exercise During Pregnancy

Exercise is an important part of everyday healthy living and so it is for you now that you are pregnant. If you were not exercising prior to your pregnancy, than it is important to consult your health care provider before you start any new program.

The positive effects:

Exercise during pregnancy reduces common problems during pregnancy. Exercise helps your circulation or blood flow. Good circulation can help reduce or prevent leg cramps, swelling, constipation, hemorrhoids and varicose veins. Additionally, exercise during pregnancy can strengthen your back muscles which provide support and reduce the chances or extent of back pain that you may experience.

Exercise during pregnancy can increase your energy. Your improved blood flow and overall cardiovascular system will give you more endurance making it easier to complete tasks.

Exercise also allows you to sleep better. It is common for women to experience some type of problem sleeping during their pregnancy. Exercise usually allows you to enter into a more restful slumber.

Exercise during pregnancy helps your mood. You should find that any mood swings occur less often. Additionally, exercise helps your self-image and gives you a sense of control.

Exercise helps prepare you for childbirth. The good news is that exercise not only makes you healthier, there is some research that shows that the health of the mother leads to shorter labor, fewer medical interventions, and less exhaustion during labor.

Exercise during pregnancy makes it easier to lose weight after pregnancy. Keeping fit during your pregnancy will help you avoid any excess weight beyond what you should gain. Exercise also keeps your muscle tone and strength which helps you burn more calories.

Exercise concerns to watch for:

Check with your health care provider before starting an exercise program. In most cases, it is safe and beneficial for pregnant women to exercise, however some women who have a high-risk pregnancies exercise may increase certain risks. If this is the case, your exercising should be watched by your health care provider to be sure that there are no additional threats to you or your baby.

Too much exercise. Exercise causes your blood flow to move away from your internal organs, which would include your uterus, to your muscles, lungs and heart to provide the necessary oxygen. If you workout too hard, this may lessen oxygen from your uterus. Be sure to stay within a recommended heart rate so that the appropriate oxygen is getting to your baby.

A change in balance. You center of gravity and balance is going to change because your pelvis is changing to prepare for your developing baby. Additionally, the added weight will change your normal center of gravity. It is important to do activities that have a low chance of falling or tripping.

Avoid such activities as downhill skiing, horseback riding, mountain climbing, and contact sports (like football or soccer) that could put you at risk for an injury or a fall.

Getting to hot. Hot tubs, saunas and exercise have the potential to raise your body temperature which can affect your baby’s development. It is important to avoid working out when the outside temperature is very hot. It is also important to get lots of water or other fluids when exercising. Your body temperature should stay below 101°F.

Last Updated: 07/2008

Compiled using information from the following sources:

Clapp, Dr. James F. III, MD. Exercising Through Your Pregnancy. Addicus Books: Omaha, Nebraska, 2002.

Mikeska, Erinn, CPT, and Dr. Christine Quatro, Delivering Fitness. Brown Books Publishing Group: Dallas, TX, 2004.

Effects of Exercise on Pregnancy, http://www.americanpregnancy.org

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