by Rachel Warner MAT, ATC, LAT
I didn’t receive helpful advice from my doctor regarding exercise when I became pregnant. I asked all the questions and got the same canned answer, “just keep doing what you were doing before you got pregnant.” Just for the record, I was deadlifting 300lbs and playing soccer. Not things I should have been doing without modification, at the very least. Needless to say, I did not leave the office feeling educated or empowered.
The lack of clear direction tends to make moms overly cautious during pregnancy, oftentimes avoiding exercise all together, and too quick to return in the postpartum period. So what is the actual advice for the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology? Light to moderate exercise during pregnancy is advised for nearly every pregnant person. It has been shown so many benefits including better sleep, lower rates of depression while pregnant and postpartum, decreased risk of preeclampsia, decreased risk of urinary incontinence, decreased risk of cesarean section, and decreased chance of excessive weight gain during pregnancy.
So, what could you do if you did not exercise prior to becoming pregnant? First, check with your doctor to ensure that light to moderate exercise is safe for you, there are some absolute contraindications for exercise such as restrictive lung disease. Once you get the go ahead, start with lower intensity and shorter bouts of exercise. Gradually increase the time and intensity as your body becomes conditioned. The goal is to start with 1-2 hours a week broken up into multiple 20 to 30 minute sessions. Keep your perceived effort at a moderate level the majority of the time, you should be able speak sentences, but a full conversation would be difficult. Be sure to listen to your body, stop and notify your doctor if you begin experiencing dizziness, chest pain, muscle weakness affecting balance, calf pain or swelling, vaginal bleeding, regular painful contractions, or amniotic fluid leakage.
There are a few activities you should avoid while pregnant, to ensure your safety and that of the baby.
- Any activity with a high risk of falling. (skiing, surfing, off road- cycling, gymnastics, horseback riding)
- Contact sports. (soccer, football, boxing, hockey, rugby, and basketball)
- Scuba Diving
- Activities in high temperatures (hot yoga, hot pilates)
If you are not doing any of the activities above, you are likely good to keep doing what you are doing as long as you feel comfortable. Keep in mind, pregnancy is not the time to PR. Modifications to training are recommended and oftentimes required as pregnancy progresses. If you are accustomed to high levels of activity, it is advised to keep high intensity training short.
If you are unsure what is safe of how to modify an activity consult a healthcare provider specializes in pre and postnatal fitness.
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