Exercising During Pregnancy
Exercise during pregnancy is encouraged if you have clearance from your nurse-midwife or doctor and your pregnancy is normal (no problems with premature contractions/labor). Exercise is a good stress reliever and can help prepare your body for labor.
Aerobic exercise is repetitive exercise hard enough to demand increased oxygen to the muscles. Aerobic exercise stimulates the heart and lungs, and it helps get your heart "in shape." Examples include walking, bicycling, swimming, and tennis.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF AEROBIC EXERCISE?
- Increases oxygen and nutrition to your baby and helps your baby make brain cells
- Increases your muscle tone and strength.
- Decreases varicose veins, hemorrhoids, and swelling of your hands and feet
- Relieves backache and constipation and makes delivery easier
- Helps you sleep at night
A good exercise program is one that starts before pregnancy, but it is never too late to start exercising. Start off slowly with 10 minutes of warm-up exercises (stretching), followed by 5 minutes of strenuous exercise and 5 minutes of cool down. Gradually increase the strenuous exercise to 15 minutes. Aim to exercise three times each week.
After the fourth month of pregnancy, do not exercise flat on your back (example: sit ups). This may decrease blood and oxygen to the baby. Also, do not point your toes while exercising. This may cause cramps in the calves.
IMPORTANT TIPS WHEN YOU EXERCISE DURING PREGNANCY
Drink lots of fluids before, during, and after exercise, and increase fluid intake if you are exercising in warmer weather or if you are sweating a lot.
Stay cool. Do not exercise in hot or humid weather. Wear loose-fitting, comfortable clothes. Wear well-fitted shoes. Do not use saunas, steam rooms, or hot tubs. Avoid overheating yourself.
Eat a light snack 15–20 minutes before exercising. Also, eat an extra 100–200 calories per day to make up for those you burn off while exercising.
Keep a check on your heart rate: You can check your heart rate by simply feeling your carotid pulse (the pulse felt on the side of your neck). Please two fingertips beside your trachea (windpipe) and press slightly into your neck. You should feel your pulse there. Count the number of times your heart beats for a 6-second period. Add a zero to this number (Example: If you counted 12 beats in 6 seconds, your heart rate is 120 beats per minute). Your pulse should not go over 140 beats per minute (14 per 6 seconds), or you may be decreasing the blood and oxygen to your baby.
Stop exercising immediately if you experience any of the following: pain, cramps, light-headedness, dizziness, headache, leaking of vaginal fluid or blood, or if you are unable to catch your breath. If these symptoms do not go away once you stop exercising and rest, call you nurse-midwife or doctor.
Exercise will not make your labor shorter but may help you push strongly.