We often receive questions regarding working out while pregnant. This is something that I feel passionately about as a mother who enjoyed the benefits of being active during my pregnancies and as an owner of a health and wellness facility.
There is a lot of information floating around the interwebs and some doctors have different ideas of the type of activity that a pregnant mother should engage in.
I personally was devastated when a nurse at a major OBGYN clinic told me off the cuff that I should discontinue my exercise when I was 12 weeks into my first pregnancy. After a little research, I soon learned that her recommendation was outdated in 1998 when the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists changed their position on exercise during pregnancy deeming the benefits outweighing the risks.
Making the decision to continue working out (particularly in a controlled, safe training environment) is a very personal one. I worked out all throughout my first pregnancy (up until 37 weeks) and I had a great pregnancy and an even better delivery. Even on days where I felt nauseous, if I could just get moving, the nausea would subside and I would feel ‘normal’ again. I am now about halfway through my second pregnancy and enjoying the benefits of being active.
As with anything, we recommend doing your own research and determine if the benefits of an active lifestyle will outweigh any potential risks. Here are a few of the health benefits to the mother and baby that were factors in my decision to continue working out throughout my pregnancies.
Health Benefits for Mama
A 2012 study revealed that mothers that exercised 4 times a week had a significantly lower risk of unplanned cesarean sections and premature births than their counterparts who did not exercise on a regular basis.
Regular exercise also can help prepare an expectant mother for childbirth and shorten labor, possibly reducing the need for medicinal intervention. Studies have also found a statistically lower risk of developing gestational diabetes later in life due to their lowered blood pressure attributed to exercise during pregnancies.
Many women also find a boosted mood and body image from their endorphins, and less fatigue due to more restful nights. In addition, regular exercise can increase cortisol tolerance, reducing the overall stress felt by a pregnant mother and her baby.
Another benefit is a decreased weight gain over the course of the pregnancy, leading to a shortened post-delivery recovery time.
Health Benefits to Baby
The babies of mothers who exercised shared a reduced risk of diabetes due to a better insulin sensitivity developed during the pregnancy. These babies also reported fitter hearts with lowered heart rates recorded at 36 weeks gestation, indicating reduced overall stress on the fetus. Upon birth, infants recorded a reduced BMI from mothers who exercised, regardless of their diet, indicating that the physical activity helped decrease the ill effects of a bad diet. These babies also had lower risks of neurodegeneration, decreasing the likelihood that they develop Alzheimer’s later in life.
But it is not for everyone…
There are certain high-risk populations who should not work out during their pregnancy. People with placenta previa, where the placenta detaches from the uterine wall and covers part or all of the cervix, are recommended to limit movement to ensure the safety of the baby.
Other high-risk groups include those with any cardiac or pulmonary ailment that could lead to lowered blood flow and oxygen to the fetus. Always clear your plans to work out with your doctor but be prepared to advocate for yourself and for your baby.
Everybody is different and every pregnancy is different. If you chose to continue your active lifestyle throughout your pregnancy. You can count on the Trainer Team and the community at Wilcox Wellness & Fitness to support you in your decision. The trainers will always provide you with options to modify your movements, keeping you and your baby safe throughout the program. You will need to listen to your body, drink lots of water, and take it easy. After all, you are the mama – you will know what feels right.
For more resources on a healthy pregnancy:
Pollock, M. L., Gaesser, G. A., Butcher, J. D., Desprs, J., Dishman, R. K., Franklin, B. A., & Garber, C. E. (1998). ACSM Position Stand: The Recommended Quantity and Quality of Exercise for Developing and Maintaining Cardiorespiratory and Muscular Fitness, and Flexibility in Healthy Adults. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 30(6), 975-991. Retrieved March 24, 2016.