Exercise Your Way to a Healthier Pregnancy and After

You deserve to put your feet up during pregnancy and after your baby is born. But, to feel your best, also keep your feet on the ground through regular exercise. If your doctor has given you the OK, make it a goal to work out often both during pregnancy and with your new baby.

Here are four motivators to help you keep moving before and after baby arrives:

  1. Exercise Your Way to a Healthier Pregnancy and After smallExercise relieves pregnancy complaints. It can ease common issues like back ache, constipation, lack of energy and varicose veins. It can help you sleep better, gain a healthy amount of weight and struggle less with depression and anxiety.
  2. Exercise lowers risk of more serious issues during pregnancy. Your chances of preeclampsia, gestational diabetes or delivering by C-section are reduced. If you have gestational diabetes, it may be even more beneficial!
  3. Exercise prepares you for the delivery room. Working out strengthens and relaxes your body for labor and delivery. And it helps you recover more quickly afterwards.
  4. Exercise helps you feel better with a new baby. It can make you feel stronger and better about yourself, giving energy to deal with newborn sleep deprivation. And, of course, it can help you to lose your pregnancy weight more quickly.

Exercise Essentials During Pregnancy

Before you begin your exercise routine, be sure to check in with your doctor or midwife about what is healthy for you. Andre Harris, MD, of Horizons Women's Health Care & Family Medicine says, "It's safe and beneficial for women with normal pregnancies to exercise often — daily, even. But, you shouldn't be working out if you've experienced issues like vaginal bleeding, any risk factors for pre-term labor or if your water has broken prematurely."

Pregnant women should aim for around two and a half hours of moderate-intensity exercise per week. Your intensity is right if you are able to talk while working out. But you shouldn't be able to sing. Walking, swimming, cycling and dancing are great exercise routines. It's also generally safe for you to continue the activities you were doing before pregnancy (unless they were scuba diving, skydiving or hot yoga). You should also avoid activities where you could be hit in the abdomen (like baseball, softball or basketball) and where you could fall (like skiing).

Be proud of yourself for whatever exercise you can add in each day!

Of course, when you start working out, be sure to call your doctor if you have any of these issues:

  • Dizziness/faintness
  • Vaginal bleeding or fluid leaking
  • Headache
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath before starting
  • Calf pain/swelling
  • Regular and painful contractions

And a reminder (because, honestly, don't we all forget?): Whether you are pregnant now or have had your baby, keep doing your Kegels.

Kegel exercises strengthen your pelvic muscles, help with your labor and also keep your bladder in good shape after labor. To do a Kegel, squeeze the muscles used to stop urinating and hold for three counts. Relax, and do it again 10 to 15 times. Try this several times a day —anytime, anywhere.

Exercise Essentials After Your Baby is Born

After your baby is born, you can begin exercising as soon as you feel ready. Dr. Harris encourages, "Listen to your body to figure out when it's time to start exercising. For some women, that could be a few days after the baby is born. For others, it is after 6 weeks. If you've had a C-section, talk to your health care provider before you start. And when you start to take it slow"

For the first six months, keep to low-impact exercises or post-partum workouts. Walking briskly is always a good option and one that is easy with your new baby. Try to exercise with your baby, rather than tiring yourself out while he naps. Don't overdo it because you're striving to lose weight too quickly — that can make you feel even more tired. Exercise is a great step toward weight loss, but it should help you to have more energy (not less). You should feel good about taking care of yourself, as well as your baby.

No matter what, know that some exercise is better than none during a normal pregnancy or if you're feeling ready after giving birth. Value the small ways you can keep healthy and active. Be proud of yourself for whatever exercise you can add in each day!

Andre Harris, MD

Andre Harris, MD

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