• Pregnancy Exercises: What Are Safe and the Signs That Say Stop

    Within reason and adequate precautions, pregnant women can only benefit from having physical activity.
    by Rachel Perez .
Pregnancy Exercises: What Are Safe and the Signs That Say Stop
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  • Gone are the days when society frowned upon women flaunting their baby bumps as if it's a debilitating illness. As long as you're healthy and your doctor does not advise against it, pregnancy exercises are good for you and your unborn baby. In fact, be thankful you can this type of physical activity because research has shown your body will benefit, especially during and after childbirth.

    Many misinformed but well-meaning people often advise preggos not to exercise at all because they're worried about miscarriage. But, "there is no real evidence that exercise is linked to miscarriage," obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. Bruce K. Young, M.D., co-author of Miscarriage, Medicine & Miracles

    It can be tiring, though, for a pregnant woman to work out, as her body is in overdrive to provide and sustain a developing baby. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) advises all pregnant women who are having a healthy, low-risk pregnancy to engage in 20 to 30 minutes of light to moderate intensity exercises daily or at least most days of the week. Its updated guidelines also give women who may not have been active pre-pregnancy the go-ahead to start an exercise routine as soon as possible.

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    Whether you're in your first trimester — although morning sickness may hinder physical activity during this time — or in your third, it's safe for preggos to work out. Even when a pregnant woman is already full-term and ready to give birth, she can still continue to exercise until her water bag breaks.

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    Benefits of pregnancy exercises

    Aside from releasing happy hormones, doctors encourage preggos to exercise because it's crucial in preventing depression and weight gain, which could further complicate the pregnancy and put both the mother and the baby's health at risk.

    Working out while pregnant has also been linked to lower chances of a C-section delivery and pre-eclampsia or hypertension during pregnancy. It can also help lower frequency of incontinence, blood sugar levels and risk of gestational diabetes. It contributes to less pain in the lower back and pelvic area.

    Exercising while pregnant can also help a preggo easily get back into shape after giving birth. But it's more than just having our pre-baby figure again — staying fit plays an essential role in preventing or keeping postpartum blues and anxieties at bay.

    Pregnancy exercises benefit the unborn baby, too. A mama-to-be's physical activity during pregnancy lowers the risk of her baby developing heart and respiratory problems. It can also help prevent the baby from becoming too big inside the womb, which could also be a cause of complications.

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    Exercises recommended for pregnant women

    Once you have been cleared by your doctor to continue or start exercising, you can begin to do low-intensity and low-impact activities. Others just choose to keep their fitness regimen before they got pregnant, adjusting their routines as the pregnancy progresses.

    In every physical activity you engage or participate in, it's essential to be aware of your body — know when rest is needed. Pregnancy isn't the time to push yourself to the maximum. Prioritize comfort above all else. Intense workouts can lead to dehydration and divert blood flow from the placenta to the muscles.

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    The general rule is if you can carry a conversation while moving, then you're doing okay. If you can't talk, then that means you are overexerting yourself. You need to stop or slow down.

    Here are some pregnancy exercises recommended by obstetrician-gynecologist Marie Cruz-Javier, M.D. and based on ACOG's guidelines:

    Walking is the go-to exercise of many pregnant women. Start with brisk walking for five minutes then continue onto longer intervals between.

    Low-impact aerobics and indoor stationary cycling or using a step or elliptical machines are also excellent workouts. Always opt for classes with certified instructors and make sure to let them know of your condition.

    Swimming, whether you're doing a few laps in the pool or doing hydro aerobics (under the guidance of a trained water aerobics instructor), is also one of the safest and easiest exercises for preggos. Make sure there is a lifeguard present!

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    Yoga and pilates are also recommended for preggos, but certain positions associated with these workouts may not be advisable. Make sure you're participating in a prenatal yoga or Pilates class. Avoid hot yoga or hot Pilates.

    Jogging or long-distance running should be okay if done in moderation. Make sure to seek the approval of your doctor first. You also might need to slow down more often, depending on your body's response to the exercise. Make sure you have on running shoes.

    Racquet sports, such as tennis and badminton, are okay if you've already been doing it before pregnancy and with modifications. Preggos may have issues with balance and changing positions as their center of gravity shifts due to her growing baby bump. Like jogging, make sure you have on proper footwear.

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    Strength training and other high-intensity interval training (HIIT) exercises, such as CrossFit and weightlifting, are okay for preggos who have been actively engaged in these activities before getting pregnant — and always with the doctor's permission.

    Who should not engage in pregnancy exercises

    Pregnant women should avoid exercise if they have heart conditions, persistent bleeding in the last two trimesters, at risk for pre-term labor, and severe anemia. When in doubt, consult your doctor.

    If you have an incompetent cervix (when the pregnant woman's cervix is dilating or opening prematurely), a low-lying placenta or placenta previa after 26 weeks of gestation, and if your water bag has broken or leaked, you need to stop exercising.

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    Activities not safe or recommended for pregnant women

    Even if you have been doing certain activities before you got pregnant, you should stop or refrain from doing sports activities where you'll get hit or can fall. We're talking about contact sports such as softball, football, basketball, and volleyball. Those that require extensive jumping, hopping, skipping, bouncing, or running, are also not encouraged.

    Doctors highly discourage scuba diving because of pressure changes. Even with the amniotic sac protecting your baby, it's best to play it safe.

    Any exercise routine or position that may cause even mild pain or trauma to the abdomen is also strictly prohibited. This is why yoga, pilates, and even strength training exercises need to be modified as the pregnancy progresses.

    Refrain from exercising in hot, humid weather, too, as it puts you at risk of dehydration. Make sure you're well-nourished and wearing comfortable exercise clothes to avoid any untoward accidents.

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    Signs you need to stop doing pregnancy exercises

    Even if you've been given the go-ahead to exercise, call your doctor or head to the hospital as soon as possible if you experience these symptoms:

    • Vaginal bleeding
    • Regular painful contractions
    • Leaking amniotic fluid
    • Shortness of breath or breathlessness
    • Dizziness
    • A headache
    • Chest pain
    • Muscle weakness affecting the balance
    • Calf pain or swelling

    Don't be quick to assume that you can't move because you're pregnant. Exercise is always a good thing for preggos — it’s just a matter of what kind and how often. All pregnant women should discuss with their doctors an exercise plan tailored to their exercise history, health, and the risk of pregnancy complications.

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