More and more women now understand the value of fitness and weight training. However, once they become pregnant they undergo a state of confusion whether to continue with their normal gym routine or not. Most pregnant women are fearful of exercising at all because of the conflicting information they get. And this is what I advise my pregnant patients-hear everyone out but only listen to your medical professional. The information that your friend has given you may not be relevant to you; when your well-meaning grand mom warns you against working out take it with a pinch of salt. Talk to your gynecologist, your physiotherapist who specializes in pregnancy care, your nutritionist, your trainer or yoga therapist specialized in pregnancy care or any competent medical professional you trust.
There are a lot of myths around pregnancy. However the three most common and their facts are as below:
- Don’t exercise- sleep more- On the contrary; the more active you are during your pregnancy, the more chances of having a healthy child. Of course, any new form of exercise should be started only after consulting with your doctor and a daily 30-minute nap is a good idea to combat fatigue.
- Eat more- you are eating for two: No you are not- Eat slightly more than you normally do pay attention to hunger. Think quality rather than quantity. Include more fruits and vegetables in your diet and eat smaller, more frequent meals.
- It is good to put on weight during pregnancy- it makes the baby fat- hence load up on ghee and sugar: On the contrary, the closer you are to your ideal weight gain (no more than 12-3 Kgs. during the entire pregnancy), the fewer complications you and your child will have during and after delivery. High incidences of the blue baby (due to pregnancy induced diabetes) and childbirth complications are because of this engorging of sweet, fatty foods. You should be eating a healthy balanced meal while avoiding the ‘white foods’ such as maida, sugar, salt, white rice and white bread. Eat brown foods instead such as whole wheat roti’s, multigrain bread, brown rice, etc. and keep your ghee intake to mild to moderate. Maintain a comfortable exercise routine to keep the weight under control.
- Stop Gymming- it is unsafe. This is an absolute myth. There is no reason to stop gymming if your body is used to it. Granted you may have to tone things down a bit in the beginning until you understand how your body responds to your exercise routine. You should also probably hire a qualified fitness trainer so that you are sure of doing your workouts correctly. But there is absolutely no reason to stop. Everybody is different, everyone’s fitness and endurance are different. What applies to one pregnant woman may not apply to you. So just slow down a bit in the beginning, listen to your body as you continue gymming and keep your gynecologist in the loop.
What can/can’t pregnant women do and to what extent
Pregnant women must exercise regularly to decrease some common discomforts like backaches and fatigue, prevent gestational diabetes (diabetes that develops during pregnancy), relieve stress, and build more stamina needed for labor and delivery. An added benefit that women love is that they gain their pre-pregnancy shape much quicker!
Guidelines tell us “In the absence of contraindications, pregnant women are encouraged to engage in 30 minutes or more of moderate exercise a day on most, if not all, days of the week. Check with your doctor before beginning an exercise program.”
In my opinion exercise during pregnancy should be tailored to suit your body type, your exercise history, and your pregnancy. Several pre-natal classes are available now that can assist you with this. A general exercise guideline can be:
Safe exercises if you were sedentary prior to pregnancy
- Stationary Cycling
- Light Aerobics
Safe exercises for if you were active prior to pregnancy
- Strength training
What are the do’s and don’ts
Exercises and activities to avoid
- Contact sports
- Ice Hockey
- Scuba Diving
- Competitive sports
- Horseback riding
- Standing for long periods of time
Other do’s and don’t’s
- Avoid overheating- stay cool
- Wear proper footwear during walking and exercising
- Avoid vigorous hip stretching (butterfly bouncing yoga pose), bouncing movement (fast, jerky dancing, etc.) and abdominal straining.
- Heart rate should not exceed 140 beats per min;
- Avoid holding your breath
- Avoid lying on the back after 5th month; left side-lying can be the most comfortable sleeping position, use pillows for comfort.
- Avoid prolonged standing or sitting, walk around instead to avoid varicose veins and swelling in legs. If standing is necessary, prop one leg up on a small step stool. Elevate feet when possible, wear support tights or stockings to reduce swelling-put these on in the morning before getting out of bed.
- Be careful getting up from lying positions- practice log roll
- You are more prone to injury because of hormonal increase and joint laxity- Be careful. Joint laxity is greater in second-time pregnancy than the first.
- A slight decrease in Blood Pressure in the second trimester is expected. If however, BP drops drastically, elevate legs, rest, drink fluids. As a precaution, hydrate yourself well.
- Do not cross knees when sitting to avoid nerve compression.
Include the mentioned stretches and exercises in your daily routine (in addition to what you are already doing). These exercises will protect you from a backache and assist a smooth labor and delivery.
Try to touch your toes but do not strain. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds and do not bounce.
Gently hold the pose for 30 counts- do not bounce up and down. These stretches keep the hips pliable for an easy labor.
Excellent for back pain- do daily 10 repetitions or whenever you have acute back pain.
Do gentle breathing exercises in this pose. This is excellent to calm mind and body.