Exercise on a regular basis not only helps you overcome many of the physical challenges but also offers many health benefits throughout your pregnancy.
Exercise increases the brain’s production of serotonin, dopamine and endorphins, which are brain chemicals to balance mood swings, reduce stress, and promote positivity.
Exercise enhances body posture, which ultimately affects breathing.
Exercise improves heart and lung functions.
Exercise reduces digestive discomfort.
Exercise strengthens muscles, relieves muscle aches and cramps.
Exercise controls weight gain.
Exercise provides stamina to get through the long hours in labor.
Exercise helps faster recovery from childbirth.
The Dos and Don’ts of Exercise
Do exercise on a regular basis.
Do exercise safely based on your physical fitness level.
Do exercise to maintain, and not to improve, your physical fitness.
Do exercise preferably with a friend or your partner.
Do keep your breathing even and regular throughout the exercise.
Do maintain a healthy body temperature throughout the exercise, especially in the first trimester (why: a core temperature of over 39.2°C may harm the baby).
Don’t over-exercise or push yourself to the limit.
Don’t exercise with the intention of losing weight.
Don’t exercise with reduction in fetal movement.
Don’t exercise with respiratory disorders, or cardiovascular diseases, such as high blood pressure.
Don’t exercise when bleeding occurs.
Don’t exercise when diagnosed with severe anemia (due to lack of iron in the blood).
Don’t exercise when diagnosed with placenta previa (a low-lying placenta, diagnosed in routine scan after 20 weeks).
Don’t exercise when diagnosed with an incompetent cervix (a high risk for miscarriage in the second trimester).
Do Select the Right Exercise
Stretching is one of the best exercises during pregnancy. It focuses on flexibility, which plays a pivotal role in body balance, posture, physical fitness, and overall well-being. Flexibility, one of the essential components of fitness, is much needed during pregnancy. Unlike many other physical exercises that emphasize fitness strength and endurance, stretching focuses on reducing muscle tension and the potential for fall. Stretching also emphasizes correct breathing which is essential to a healthy pregnancy, especially during labor.
Do get the book STRETCHING by Simon Frost (Barnes & Noble).The book provides many simple and easy-to-follow illustrations of how to perform many different stretch exercises to attain total flexibility of different types of muscles to help labor and childbirth.
Yoga is an ancient exercise that teaches body awareness through breathing and relaxation, thereby instrumental in facilitating labor and childbirth.
Yoga poses relax the mind and relieve muscle tension. Certain yoga poses also help indigestion and constipation frequently experienced during pregnancy.
Walking is an ideal exercise, especially during the first two trimesters.
Do practice awareness walking, which is walking with full attention to what you are doing—noticing the movement of your limbs, the shifting of your body weight as you move your right and left foot. Awareness walking enhances your concentration and mental focus, which play a pivotal role during labor and childbirth.
Don’t walk while talking on the cell phone, or listening to music. Avail the opportunity to focus on your body, or any subliminal message you have created, such as “I’m going to have a healthy baby.”
Weight training is ideal for building strength and toning muscles.
Do breathe out when exerting muscles, and do breathe in when relaxing.
Don’t overstrain muscles, and don’t overdo it.
Do exercise your pelvic-floor muscles throughout your pregnancy by doing Kegel exercise. To locate your pelvic-floor muscles, try stopping the flow of your urine midstream.
Do squeeze your Kegel muscles anytime and anywhere—even while driving. Squeeze, hold for a count of 5, and then let go.
Don’t do the exercise during urination.
Kegel exercises has many benefits for labor and delivery, including:
Strengthening the muscles in the vagina area to prepare for the birth of the baby.
Strengthening the perineal area to avoid tearing of the vaginal opening during delivery.