LEARNING THAT YOU ARE PREGnant may change your view of your body. After all, you now have a developing baby within you to worry about. Add in some side effects of pregnancy, like feeling tired and sick to your stom- ach, and it can be tempting to avoid physical activity. In fact, you can, and should, remain active during pregnancy. Regular exercise helps you stay healthy. It also helps your developing baby.
Exercise before, during and after birth
As you advance through pregnancy, your body will begin to look and feel different. Exercise can make you feel more energetic. It can also reduce the aches and pains that often come with pregnancy and can even make you look better.
In addition, exercise can help you during delivery. Childbirth requires a lot of physical effort. Be- ing fit prepares your body for the hard work of labor. Even small improvements in fitness will benefit you.
Once you deliver your baby, you’ll want to return your body to its previous shape. If you exercised regularly before and during pregnancy, you’ll gain less weight from fat. That will make it easier to get back in shape.
Exercise does not cause miscarriage. According to the American Pregnancy
Association, the most com- mon cause of miscarriage in the first trimester (three months) is problems with the fetus’ DNA. Other things that can cause a mis- carriage are:
- Drug use.
- Poor eating habits.
- Excessive amounts
of caffeine (such as
- Radiation (for example, X-rays). Sensible exercise is not proven to cause miscarriage.
How can you exercise safely during pregnancy?
You should speak with your doctor before starting any type of exercise pro- gram. Depending on what your doctor recommends, you can do many different things. Swimming can take pressure off your joints. Many experts suggest walk- ing for exercise. Strength training, at least with the arms, should also be fine. You may even be able to run short distances if you were already running before your pregnancy. If not, however, you should hold off until after delivery to begin doing so.
Exercises to avoid
While exercise during pregnancy has many great benefits, there are some activities that you should definitely avoid.
Once you think you are pregnant, you should not do any activity that involves bouncing, leaping or sudden changes in direction. In addition, you should stop doing sit-ups, double- leg raises and straight-leg toe touches during your pregnancy. You should also avoid sharp twisting of your body or holding your breath. And avoiding contact sports, such as basketball, or other activities where you are likely to fall down can help you protect your growing baby.
Also, take particular care during Louisiana’s hot and humid summers. If you become overheated, it can harm your developing baby.
If in doubt, ask your doctor
No two people are exactly alike, and no two pregnancies are exactly alike. Some people are able to remain very active well into their pregnancy. Others have to cut back on their physical activity earlier. That’s why it is important to talk with your doctor about how you’re feeling. Make sure you see your doctor regularly from the very beginning of your pregnancy and follow his or her advice.
Yolonda Spooner, M.D., is the medical director of AmeriHealth Caritas Louisiana (formerly known as LaCare), a Medicaid managed care plan serving nearly 145,000 Louisianans.