MoonDragon's Pregnancy Information
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PRENATAL EXERCISE DESCRIPTION
When a woman is pregnant, she may feel tired. As the pregnancy proceeds and the baby grows, she is gaining weight and may feel uncomfortable with this extra weight gain. She may not always feel at her best. These symptoms are very normal during pregnancy. Activity and exercise will help on most, if not all, days of the week to relieve discomforts and benefit her health in many ways.
The pregnant woman should always discuss any exercise or activity plans with her midwife or health care provider before beginning it to make sure that she does not have any health conditions that may limit her activity. She should discuss any activities or sports that may interest her. Her midwife can offer advice about what type of exercise routine may be best for her.
Exercise helps pregnant women to feel better during a time when their bodies are changing.
Exercising during pregnancy can help minimize minor discomfort associated with the pregnancy, improve posture, make the body more supple, enhance circulation, assist with control of relaxation and/or expulsion during delivery, and provide a feeling of general well-being. Pregnancy is a state of health, not of illness. Properly executed exercises can help maintain health and avoid problems. A well-conditioned body will perform better and more reliably during the stress of advanced pregnancy, labor, and delivery. Pre-conditioning will contribute to a more speedy recovery of body contour following delivery.
Exercise regularly, rather than occasionally. Plan your exercise program with the help of your prenatal providers (midwife, health care provider, fitness instructor, etc.). It should be planned around your pre-pregnancy fitness level. Women that have normally engaged in an exercise program before pregnancy can continue it during pregnancy (sometimes modifications are necessary). Women who were not exercising prior to pregnancy are advised to begin an exercise program.
The standard rule for exercise and activity during pregnancy is that you can do (almost) anything after you get pregnant that you did before you got pregnant. Vacuuming, though strenuous on your back, will not hurt the baby. Rollerblading as long as you take the safety measures available and you were doing it prior to your pregnancy is great exercise. As you move along in your pregnancy, keep in mind your stability changes because of your increasing girth and you should be more careful. Consult with your midwife or health care provider if you have concerns about your regular activities and their effect on your pregnancy.
Stationary biking is one safe exercise to do during your pregnancy.
CHARACTERISTIC CHANGES DURING PREGNANCY
BALANCE: A woman will normally be carrying an extra 20 to 45 lbs by the end of pregnancy. The extra weight in the front of your body shifts your center of gravity. The pregnant woman's center of gravity moves forward and downward, altering balance, stability, and stance. This places stress on joints and muscles, especially those in the pelvisand lower back, making a pregnant woman more likely to lose balance and fall, especially in later pregnancy. Backache, a frequent complaint of pregnancy, is directly attributable to poor posture.
JOINTS: Hormonal changes during pregnancy soften (relaxing) ligaments and connective tissue that can compromise the stability and support of the spine and torso. This makes the joints more mobile and more at risk injury. Avoid jerky, bouncy, or high impact motions that can increase your risk of injury. Proper alignment prevents strain on joints.
PELVIS: The abdominal muscles are stressed by the weight of the enlarging uterus. Keeping the pelvis in proper position protects these muscles from undue stretching and possible separation.
POSTURE: Proper posture and alignment will assist with better lung expansion and air exchange, which may become limited by the enlarging uterus. Exercise improves posture.
PREGNANCY SYMPTOMS: Exercise helps reduce constipation, bloating, and swelling. Gives the woman energy, improving her mood and helps her to sleep better.
FITNESS: It will promote muscle tone, strength, and endurance. All of which will be necessary for birthing her baby. Regular activity helps to keep the expectant woman fit during pregnancy and may improve her ability to cope with the discomforts and stresses of labor. It will also make it easier for her to return to her pre-pregnancy shape after the baby is born. However, a woman should NOT exercise to loose weight while she is pregnant.
HEART RATE: The extra weight and the increased blood volume a pregnant woman has during pregnancy will make her body, including her heart, work harder than before she became pregnant. Exercise will increase the flow of oxygen and blood to the muscles and away from other parts of the body. Exercising moderately will help prevent the pregnant woman from getting tired quickly, but, do not over do it. If the woman is unable to talk normally while exercising, then her activity is too strenuous. She needs to keep her heart rate and blood pressure within a normal activity range.
CHOOSING SAFE EXERCISES
Most forms of exercise are safe during pregnancy. But, some types of exercise involve positions and movements that may be uncomfortable, tiring, or harmful for pregnant women. For instance, after 20 weeks of pregnancy, women should not do exercises that require them to lie flat on their back, because it may be more difficult for the blood to circulate.
Walking is considered the best exercise for anyone. Brisk walking gives a good total body workout and is easy on the joints and muscles. Other good activities for pregnant women include swimming and stationary biking.
Walking is one of the best exercises a woman can do during pregnancy.
POSITIVE CHARACTERISTICS IN AN EXERCISE PROGRAM
During the warm up and cool down, stretch the muscles to avoid soreness.
Basically, what is needed is a warm-up period that slowly stretches muscles until the limit of range of motion is achieved and circulation to muscles and heart rate are increased gradually.
If it has been some time since a woman has exercised, it is a good idea to start slowly. Begin with as little as 5 minutes a day and add 5 minutes a week until you can stay active for 30 minutes a day. Twenty minutes is usually considered a minimum time for the exercises to be effective, but many women will have to work up to this time requirement. Do not over do it. Exercising beyond 30 minutes probably provides no additional benefit. Exercising during pregnancy is most practical during the first 24 weeks. During the last 3 months, it can be difficult to do many exercises that once seemed easy. This is normal.
After exercising, there should be a cooling down period for muscles and heart rate to return to their pre-exercise state. An exercise routine with the more stressful ones in the middle helps achieve this goal. Cooling down for 5 to 10 minutes and stretching again also helps to avoid sore muscles. Hold each stretch for 20 to 30 seconds - do not bounce.
Exercises should provide control, rhythm, stabilization of the pelvis, and proper alignment of the pelvis in a posterior-tilt position.
Swimming provides rhythm, controlled breathing, and water buoyancy.
Drink plenty of fluids before and after exercising.
Stationary walking can be done in a safe environment.
Do not participate in a strenuous exercise program (such as running a marathon) when pregnant, if you were not doing it regularly prior to pregnancy.
Do not indulge in rapid exercises with uncontrolled momentum. Sudden or exaggerated motions will severely stress ligaments and joints that are already relaxed under hormonal influence. Avoid activities that call for jumping, jarring motions or quick changes in direction that may strain the joints and cause injury.
Do not consider any exercises that increase the lordotic (lower back) curve of the spine or cause excessive compression of the uterus. After 20 weeks of pregnancy, avoid doing any exercise while lying on the back.
Do not exercise outdoors in hot, humid weather. There are risks from becoming overheated during pregnancy. These may cause loss of fluids and lead to dehydration and problems during pregnancy. Overheating in the first 8 weeks of pregnancy may be a contributing factor to the development of birth defects. Avoid brisk exercise when you are sick with a fever.
Drink plenty of water to help keep the body from overheating and dehydrating. Consume the extra 300 calories a day that is needed during pregnancy.
Wear a comfortable bra that fits well and gives lots of support to help protect the breasts. Wear comfortable clothing that will help the body to remain cool.
Do not bend deeply or greatly extend your joints and do not stand up abruptly.
While exercising, pay attention to your body. Do not exercise to the point of exhaustion. Be aware of the warning signs that may indicate you may be exercising too strenuously. If you notice any of these symptoms, stop any exercise right away if you develop signs of:
- Dizziness or feeling faint or lightheaded.
- Pain, abdominal or back. Uterine contractions and chest pain.
- Vaginal bleeding or fluid leaking from the vagina.
- Overly rapid heart rate.
- Increased shortness of breath.
If symptoms persist, call your midwife or health care provider.
Discuss your participation in an exercise program with your midwife or health care provider to ensure that there are no factors that would cause problems. This is especially important if you have a chronic medical disorder or the pregnancy is considered high-risk.
Women with the following conditions may be advised by their midwife or health care provider not to exercise during their pregnancy:
- Pregnancy-induced hypertension.
- Symptoms or history of preterm labor (early contractions).
- Vaginal bleeding.
- Premature rupture of membranes.
AFTER THE BABY IS BORN
Giving birth to a baby and taking care of a newborn is hard work. It will take a while to regain your strength after the strain of pregnancy and birth. Taking care of yourself physically and allowing your body time to recover is very important. If you had a cesarean delivery, a difficult birth, or complications, your recovery time may be longer. Check with your midwife or health care provider before starting or resuming an exercise program.
Walking is a good way to get back into exercising. Brisk walks several times a week will prepare you for more strenuous exercise when you are feeling up to it. Walking has the added advantages of getting both you ant the baby out of the house for exercise and fresh air. As you feel stronger, consider more vigorous exercise.
You will want to pick an exercise program that meets your own personal needs. Your midwife, health care provider, or community center may be able to help. There may be special postpartum exercise classes in your community that you may be able to join.
MoonDragon's Postpartum Information: Postpartum Exercise
NOTIFY YOUR MIDWIFE OR HEALTH CARE PROVIDER
You or a family member is pregnant and has questions or concerns about exercising. During pregnancy, you are starting a new, or changing an exercise program.
MoonDragon's Pregnancy Information: Pregnancy Information & Survival Tips
MoonDragon's Pregnancy Index
MoonDragon's Womens Health Information: Pregnancy Index
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