There are many benefits to exercising during pregnancy, and they should not be overlooked. While there are also some misconceptions about this topic, including increased risk of miscarriage and premature delivery, evidence shows that exercise actually lowers many pregnancy related complications and benefits the baby. Here we will dive into the benefits of exercising while pregnant, and discuss some tips to ensure you are exercising safely during pregnancy.
Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy
1. Prevent Gestational Diabetes
Gestational diabetes is a condition that effects 2-10% of women yearly. During pregnancy, hormone levels change, making it more difficult for your body to process blood sugar. This leads to a rise in blood sugar, causing gestational diabetes. This in turn increases risk of other issues during pregnancy such as preeclampsia, a high blood pressure condition, C-section delivery and high blood pressure. Gestational diabetes can also lead to type 2 diabetes later in life. The 2 highest factors for this are obesity and inactivity. With that said, it is crucial to remain active during pregnancy to help prevent the onset of gestational diabetes.
2. Improve Your Mood and Increase Energy
During pregnancy, as your hormones are changing, your mood and energy levels can be adversely effected. In order to combat mood swings, lowered energy levels, and help mental health physical activity is recommended. Exercise helps with the release of serotonin and endorphins, which will boost your mood and help you maintain proper energy levels. Plus, pregnancy can be stressful especially for first time expecting moms. Exercise can help you relieve that stress, check out here are 11 tips to reduce stress.
3. Prevent Excessive Weight Gain
While weight gain during pregnancy is totally normal, excessive weight gain during pregnancy can be harmful to both the mother and the child. An excessive amount of weight gained during pregnancy can lead to increased risk of gestational diabetes, higher chance of C-section delivery, and preeclampsia. Along with this, it can be harder to get back to a healthy weight and level of fitness after birth. Making sure you are remaining active during pregnancy, along with good nutrition, can help to prevent excessive weight gain.
4. Decrease Risk of DVT
DVT, or deep vein thrombosis, happen when blood clots form in the deep veins of your body. They can cause miscarriage, still birth, or issues with your baby’s ability to develop in the womb. While not extremely common during pregnancy, 1 out of every 1,000 women, they still pose a risk and should be addressed. Regular physical activity, along with hydration, can help to prevent DVT’s.
5. Helps With Incontinence
During pregnancy, as your fetus grows, it does so over your bladder. As your fetus gets larger and your womb expands, more pressure is placed on your bladder, which can lead to urine leakage, or incontinence. Urinary incontinence effects 75% of women during pregnancy and about 33% after delivery. This is a frustrating issue, but exercise can help! Strengthening of the pelvic floor, specifically through abdominal exercises like the Kegel, can help to prevent leakage.
6. Reduce Back Pain
Of course with pregnancy comes added stress on the body and joints, including the back. As you progress through pregnancy, the ligaments and tissues of the abdomen become soft and stretch, to prepare your body for labor. More then 50% of women experience some form of lumbopelvic pain during pregnancy. Through proper exercise and strengthening, some of the pain you feel can be addressed. Strengthening the muscles of the core and the legs assists in removing the stress that is put on the spine during pregnancy. Check out our post on Exercises and Stretches to Help Alleviate Back Pain.
7. Prepare for Labor and Post-Partum Fitness
During pregnancy, the actual delivery and labor is a process women prepare for thoroughly. Of course you want this process to be as quick and easy as possibly. A strong pelvic floor and core can help you make this process as quick as can be! Along with helping during labor, strengthening muscles during pregnancy will make it that much easier for you to return to your pre-partum fitness level!
Risks of Exercise During Pregnancy and Tips to Remain Safe
There are some contraindications to exercise during pregnancy. That means that there are some conditions that present during pregnancy that mean you should not be exercising.
These include but are not limited to:
- Ruptured membrane, water breaking
- Persistent vaginal bleeding
- Pregnancy with multiple babies with risk of preterm labor
- Certain heart and lung conditions
You should always consult with your doctor if you are unsure about whether or not you should be exercising during your pregnancy.
Some tips to remain safe during exercise while pregnant include:
- Stay hydrated!
- Stay well nourished as you are working out and eating for two
- Avoid exercise that cause pain or discomfort
- Avoid high impact exercises(jumping, hopping)
- If something doesn’t feel right, listen to your body and consult your doctor
As stated above, the benefits of exercise during pregnancy are many! They help you stay in better shape during pregnancy, decrease risk of certain conditions that arise during pregnancy, and help you return to your pre partum level of fitness. Brisk walking, riding your bike, weight training, swimming, mobility…they are all good for you during pregnancy! Aim for the recommended 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week. There are instances where working out during pregnancy can be dangerous and pose risk, but again, consult with your doctor to make sure you are being safe.