exercise for a healthy pregnancy and easier labor
Today VWJ features the lovely and talented Becky Striepe of our sister site Eat Drink Better. Aside from being an awesome vegan chef, masterful blogger, and clever green crafter, she is going to be a mama in a few months! The Important Media family is super happy to hear her news, and over the next few months she is going to share her experiences with her healthy and active pregnancy.
Exercise can help make pregnancy easier on your body and make it easier when the time comes to deliver. Since getting pregnant, I’ve been very surprised to see so little literature and advice on this topic!
I am not a doctor, so what I’m sharing here is my experience and what my doctors have told me. Your body is going through a lot of changes when you’re pregnant, so before you start any new exercise routine, you should talk to your doctor first. There are exercises – like skiing – that are verboten during pregnancy, because it’s so easy to fall and hurt your abdomen. Your doctor should be able to tell you based on your exercise history and fitness level what is and isn’t safe, so get a list of questions together, and don’t be shy about asking!
Running and Pregnancy
I should note here that if you weren’t running before you got pregnant, now is not the time to start. The problem isn’t necessarily that you could hurt your baby, but because pregnancy hormones relax your muscles and tendons, it’s very easy to injure yourself if your body isn’t already in running shape. You think getting up four times a night to pee sucks? I bet it’s worse if you have a sprained ankle!
When I found out that I was pregnant this summer and after doing many happy dances, I of course had a ton of questions for my doctor. One of them was about running. Before getting pregnant, I was running 12-15 miles per week, and I didn’t know if this was OK to continue with a baby in my belly. My doctor said it was fine to keep running, just listen to my body.
Since I’ve gotten bigger, I’ve cut back to 9 miles a week, not because it was hurting anything, but because those 5 mile runs stopped being as fun. This isn’t something that happens to all pregnant women, but for some women, a growing uterus puts pressure on our lungs making it harder to catch our breath. For me, three mile runs are still fine, but with all of the walking breaks, those fivers just weren’t satisfying anymore.
Prenatal Exercise Tips and Resources
I’ve always been very fitness-minded, so cutting back so much on my exercise was kind of tough on me emotionally. I was feeling pretty bummed about it, until I discovered a website that changed my pregnancy: Fit Pregnancy. Unlike the sites I’d been reading for my information, they had articles from doctors talking about the benefits of prenatal exercise and they even have some great routines that you can do! You might be able to chalk this up to hormones, but I was so happy to read positive exercise advice for pregnant women, that I cried the first time I read through this site.
How much exercise you can manage really depends on your fitness level and how active you were before you got pregnant. You should always talk to your doctor, and make sure that when you’re exercising you’re drinking plenty of water. Some doctors will tell you that you don’t want your heart rate above 140bpm for extended periods, while others have told me that’s not something to worry about.
What every doctor has told me is that controlling your body temperature is important. An increased temperature – above 101 or 102F – is linked to disorders like autism. That’s why taking breaks when you’re feeling overheated and drinking plenty of fluids is so important. Do it!
Prenatal Yoga and Weights
Like I mentioned, Fit Pregnancy really changed things for me. Now, I supplement my running with a yoga and weights mashup routine that combines moves that help make my pregnant body more comfortable and movements that will help with delivery.
There’s a half-truth out there that you shouldn’t do ab work when you’re pregnant. While some ab exercises, like crunches, are not a good idea, some ab work can really help you down the road! You’re going to want strong belly muscles when it’s time to push that baby out!
Here’s the prenatal workout routine that I’ve been doing:
- The No-Time No-Excuses Workout – since I’m running on my off days, my warmup has been the “100 Up,” an exercise that helps improve your running stride and prevent injury. If you’re not doing any other cardio, you’re better off following the advice on the page and walking to warm up.
- Strong & Serene – This is a series of yoga poses, and I love, love, love them!
- Ready, Set, Push! – Pushing a baby out is no joke. This series works your abs safely to get your body ready.
There is a little bit of overlap between the moves in these, so eliminate any duplicates. You also don’t have to do all of these in the order they tell you. Mix things up to keep it interesting, and, as always, talk to your doctor first!
You’ll want to start slowly. Maybe you can only do one set of 10 at first, or maybe you don’t do all of these routines on the same day. As your body gets stronger, you’ll be able to do more. Just take your time, listen to your body, and breathe!
I’m always on the lookout for new prenatal exercise ideas, so spill it, pregnant ladies! What are you doing to stay in shape with a baby in your belly?
Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by harinaivoteza