Frequently asked questions about exercising and pregnancy:
Q: Is it okay for an active woman interested in becoming pregnant to continue exercising? If so, are there any precautions to keep in mind?
A: Dr. Amanda:Absolutely. However, if one is losing body mass such that she is anovulatory (doesn't have periods) she may need to slow down so that her eggs can be released.
Q: How should women prioritize prenatal exercise?
A: Dr. Amanda:
- Women who exercise during pregnancy can manage pain better in labor.
- Women who exercise during pregnancy are more likely to influence their partners and children to exercise which can create a healthier society.
- There is life after pregnancy and women who exercise can regain their physical fitness more rapidly.
- Women who exercise during pregnancy will be at decreased risk for peripartum depression.
- Exercise is a great way to handle some of the hormonal changes of pregnancy.
A: Dr. Amanda: Listen to your body (and your doctor!) For a LOW RISK pregnancy, as long as there is no abdominal trauma, most exercises are fine. However, joints are looser during pregnancy so be careful with technique esp. regarding hips and knees.
Q: What other kinds of exercises do you recommend? Once a woman is pregnant, how safe is it for her to use external weights?
A: Dr. Amanda: It is safe, but once pregnant a woman should use lighter weights. The joints and back are more fragile during pregnancy and can be easily injured. If you aren't straining your back or pelvis, it is fine. If it starts to hurt those areas, it's too much.
Q: What about NO NO's -- are there any prenatal exercises women should be cautious about?
A: Dr. Amanda: Avoid any flat on the back floor exercises after 28 weeks. Avoid exercises that puts the abdomen at risk for trauma. Stop if it hurts. (burn is ok)
If you are having more than 4 Braxton Hicks contractions in an hour slow down and hydrate. Heart rate should max at 15% below normal rate (American College of OBGyn says 140 bpm max, but that doesn't take into account fit women)- just don't get to the point of huffing and puffing.
Q: What are some key points you wish every pregnant woman knew about health and fitness?
A: Dr. Amanda:
- Exercise does not cause miscarriage or preterm labor.
- Exercise will improve your birth experience- labor and recovery.
- If exercise is important to you, don't stop- you are bringing a child into the world in part because you think you (and your partner) have something good going on to share with the world. Let your pregnancy and your child be a part of your unique, fit lifestyle!
Dr. Amanda William Calhoun is an OB/Gyn at Kaiser Permanente, Richmond and the assistant director of women's health in Northern California. She specializes in obstetrics and gynecology (clinical), peripartum depression, minimally invasive surgery, family planning and fibroids research.
For more information, visit www.permanente.net