Exercise and Pregnancy

Exercise and Pregnancy

Exercise regularly to build a fit and strong body and so facilitate a healthy pregnancy. Learn why it’s advisable to continue working out throughout pregnancy.

Bringing a child into this world is one of life’s greatest miracles, but it definitely isn’t simple. Nevertheless, if you have the opportunity to plan and prepare for the moment then body and mind will be ready to deal with your most important job yet. While it may defy logic to get into your fittest form ever just to become “fat” again, there are several benefits to toning your body before pregnancy and the birthing process.

woman running
Conditioning your body before getting pregnant ensures that you get back into shape fast after giving birth.

GET HEALTHY AND FIT BEFORE GETTING PREGNANT

To begin, a healthy body will improve your chances of conception, and lays the foundation for a healthy pregnancy, not to mention the development of a healthy child too.

It will also positively influence the ease with which you can bounce back from the process and get back into shape after your pregnancy.

It’s, nevertheless, important to clearly define the ideas of “best form” and “conditioning.” Preparing for birth is about creating a healthy environment that’s best for conception and the development of your child. It’s not the time to start counting and limiting calories in an attempt to lose excessive amounts of weight or achieve very low body fat percentages.

BENEFITS OF EXERCISE BEFORE GETTING PREGNANT

  • Improves the chances of conception
  • Ensures that you get back into shape fast after giving birth
  • Allows you to continue exercising at the same level throughout your pregnancy
  • Reduces the possibility of pregnancy-related problems
  • Reduces chances of gestational diabetes
woman walking with a bike
Balance your life and avoid too much stress, otherwise your body enters the survival mode, which makes conceiving less important.

MAINTAIN BALANCE

The key to this form of physical development is balance. Everyone wants their body to be in its healthiest state and fittest form. If you are exposing your body to too much stress, survival becomes its first priority and conceiving becomes less important.

Due to this fact this should be a gradual process, one where your health becomes the highest priority. Your greatest advantage to reaching optimal fitness before you get pregnant is the fact that you’ll be able to maintain that type of activity and the intensity level during the entire pregnancy, within reasonable parameters, provided you won’t have any unforeseen complications during your pregnancy (a fit, healthy physique can also help to minimize these risks).

At this stage maintenance becomes the main objective, so it’s worth to do all the hard work before. Moreover, getting into shape before pregnancy and keeping up a healthy, well-balanced diet and workout routine throughout those nine months will offer you an enormous advantage after giving birth due to your body’s ability to recognize healthy habits and bounce back because of muscle memory.

BENEFITS OF EXERCISE DURING PREGNANCY

  • Increases the size of the placenta and subsequently improves the transportation of essential oxygen-rich blood and nutrients to your child
  • Improves the body’s ability to use fat as an energy source while resting as well as working out
  • Reduces the risk of gestational diabetes and insulin resistance
  • Allows you to return to your pre-pregnancy weight and fitness levels faster
  • Increases the amount of energy and self-image during pregnancy and therefore reduces risks of post-partum depression
  • Improves circulation and therefore eases swelling, as well as reduces levels of water retention through sweating
  • Helps create or maintain good posture, preventing lower back pain
  • Enables better control over weight gain throughout pregnancy, because less fat will be deposited
  • Prepares you for labour if you’re planning for natural delivery and decreases recovery time postpartum from either natural or caesarean deliveries.
pregnant woman and gym ball
Exercising during pregnancy has numerous benefits.

WEEK 1–WEEK 12

THE FIRST TRIMESTER

Doctors still aren’t definitely sure what’s the cause of morning sickness. The most popular theory is that it’s the body’s response to the pregnancy hormone, human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), which is produced at greater levels throughout the first trimester than at any other time during pregnancy.

The pregnancy hormone causes bouts of mild to severe nausea during the day, sometimes accompanied by vomiting. On some level the nausea can be reassuring – an early sign that a tiny human being is growing inside of you.

Morning sickness is, nevertheless, not something that all expectant mothers experience. Try to exercise whenever possible, because this will help relieve symptoms of pregnancy-related nausea. If you’re feeling too terrible and run down, don’t force yourself to exercise. Rather try to get out of bed and do something at a low intensity. This can often make you feel much better, even if it’s just getting up and having a shower.

For the first couple of weeks of your baby-to-be’s development, the yolk sac connected to the embryo supplies all vital nutrients and produces blood cells until the placenta fully forms later in the pregnancy. As soon as the placenta has formed, the yolk sac shrinks and the nutritive function falls away. This doesn’t mean that this is an excuse to throw junk into your body and abuse substances like nicotine, alcohol or medication, it’s just a little bit of a relief for the mind on the days that you don’t feel well enough to eat a healthy and balanced meal.

Try your hardest to eat small amounts consistently during the whole day. Not eating will make you feel worse when your blood sugar levels decrease. Avoid protein when feeling unwell because it’s harder to digest and this can make you feel even worse.

Morning Sickness
To alleviate morning sickness, try drinking warm water with a bit of fresh lemon juice first thing in the morning.

HOW CAN YOU RELIEVE MORNING SICKNESS?

Try the following:

  • Homemade ginger, lemon and honey tea: 750ml distilled water, 2 whole lemons cut in half, 3 thumb-sized knobs of fresh ginger and 2 tbsp of raw honey, brought to the boil and simmered for about 15 minutes.
  • Warm water with a bit of fresh lemon juice first thing in the morning.
  • Sparkling water with a bit of 100% organic apple juice helps alleviate the metallic taste one gets in the mouth during pregnancy, called dysgeusia, caused by pregnancy hormones.
  • Peppermint tea – a great caffeine-free pick-me-up with beneficial digestive qualities.
  • Peeled green apple.
  • Frozen grapes.
pregnant woman exercising
Don’t do any exercises on your back because this position decreases blood flow and supply of nutrients to the fetus.

WEEK 13–WEEK 28

THE SECOND TRIMESTER

From about 16 weeks women who experienced severe morning illness during their first trimester should start to feel better again. It’s also possible that you’ll have more energy than ever. Now it’s the time to return into a proper workout routine and start giving your weekly routine a healthy structure, if this wasn’t possible during your first trimester.

Find a training buddy or sign up for a qualified personal trainer who specializes in prenatal exercise, or find a biokinetisist. This will encourage you on the days that you’re searching for any excuse to avoid entering the gym because you’ll have a standing arrangement with somebody who holds you accountable or you have paid to be there.

At this stage of your pregnancy, it’s important to note that no workouts can be done on your back because the weight of the uterus slows the return of blood to your heart by placing pressure on the vena cava, which decreases blood flow to the fetus. This means the child is getting less oxygen and less nutrients.

Moreover, working out increases the muscles’ need for oxygen and nutrients which are necessary to produce energy. This can further compound the effect when working out on your back while pregnant.

pregnant woman and dumbbells
In the last three weeks of pregnancy avoid unilateral movements such as lunges because your pelvic region is no longer able to offer the necessary level of support.

WEEK 29–WEEK 40

THE THIRD TRIMESTER

At this stage you’ll probably start feeling rather large and cumbersome. You may notice that you’re often out of breath, even when doing the smallest of tasks.

On the days that you don’t have the energy to complete a training session don’t be too hard on yourself. Just do what you can and commit to returning again the next day.

The third trimester is not the time to push your boundaries. Because your body prepares for labour, a hormone known as relaxin is released causing connective tissue to, as the name already suggests, relax. Because of this, the joints and ligaments between the bones in your pelvis will start to loosen to allow the child to pass through the birthing canal more easily during labour. For this reason, it’s advisable that you only perform bilateral closed kinetic chain (both feet planted on the ground or platform) workouts such as leg presses or squats.

Make sure you avoid unilateral movements such as lunges because your pelvic region is no longer able to offer the necessary level of support and stabilization at this stage of pregnancy. Consequently, the muscles in the surrounding areas will try to compensate for this instability in the joint and ligament regions, which might potentially cause muscle strains and injury.

newborn
Remember that breastfeeding still requires that you consume an extra 300–500 quality calories a day.

BEFORE GIVING BIRTH

The last couple of weeks of pregnancy are a combination nervousness and excitement, especially if you are pregnant for the first time.

Nevertheless, as soon as that obsessive need to fuss the baby’s room for the thousandth time has passed and your hospital bags are packed, it’s advisable to put some of that obsessive nesting energy into meal preparation for when you and your new family member arrive back home.

Cook several nutritious, healthy meals and get them frozen into portions. Until your little one is here, you can significantly underestimate the amount of time or energy you will have for everyday tasks like cooking. Even preparing a simple salad can seem like a Herculean task when you’re trying to care for a newborn, which is why new mothers often end up living on toast or take-aways. But this isn’t the right way to being a healthy, energetic new mother.

Remember you have to consume nutritionally balanced meals to provide your child with good quality breast milk. For the same reason, you should never under-eat in attempt to lose that pregnancy weight. Breastfeeding your child still requires that you consume an extra 300–500 quality calories a day.

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Written by Sarah Johnson

Sarah Johnson is a woman who lives and breathes fitness and healthy lifestyle. She is a regular visitor to the gym and has gained wealth of experience in toning and strengthening the body. In the evenings she likes to read a good detective novel.

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