On Exercise and Pregnancies

The moment I told a number of family members and some friends that I was pregnant I was quite startled by the reaction of how conservative a number of them were, for their immediate reaction was to inform me that I ought to stop all my activities and “take it easy”.

Before I became pregnant, I had been determined to keep up my level of activities as I saw fit. Perhaps at that time, I was delving too deep into the realms of the opposite extremes, but I certainly did not and still do not agree with zero activity during pregnancy.

I certainly understand the need to heed my body’s advice, however, I thought it a rather extreme idea that I should lock myself up and do nothing but rest and eat. I’m carrying a baby, not preparing for hibernation.

Since the dawn of ages, women have been toiling in the fields up to the day of labour, ceasing only long enough only to deliver the baby and rest for the remainder of that day before returning to the fields the following day.

Of course, I am hardly of the physique to be toiling day in and day out up until the day of delivery, but then, neither do I belong to the category of the home bound. I have been running races and rock climbing fairly consistently for the last six months before pregnancy.

With so much controversy over this topic, I decided to find out what the experts saying about pregnancy and exercise…

The first obstetrician I saw was of the opinion that if I could maintain a regime of swimming breast stroke up until as close to labour as I am able to, it would encourage an easier and quicker delivery. If it couldn’t be swimming, then as long as I did not do any jumping or exercises that engaged my abdominals, it would be fine.

The second obstetrician agreed that exercise was fine as long as I was not over-exerting myself. Gentle walking on a thread mill was fine, as was gentle cycling on a recumbent cycle. Yoga was allowable as long as I did not push my limits and informed the instructor that I am pregnant. Baby Center also provides a guideline for expecting mothers who wish to continue Yoga.

I also did my own research and found that the views on exercise and pregnancy are still quite varied and somewhat controversial. I guess the problem is because there have been very little research done on exercise and pregnant women. Understandably so, since it is rather uncommon to find a pregnant mother who would willingly subject the development of her child on experimental exercise regimes.

In general most sources agree that if you are normally sedentary, starting an exercise program when you are pregnant may not be the wisest thing to do. However, women who are already accustomed to strenuous activities before becoming pregnant are not likely to harm themselves or their babies if they were to continue these activities during their pregnancy.

In general, most literature encourage some sort of exercise, however there are some recommendations to follow. For instance, they recommend keeping ventilated to avoid overheating, drinking plenty of fluids to keep hydrated, wearing loose fitting clothes that breathe, avoid exercising on hot/humid days, and listening to your body.

Kid’s Health believe that exercise during pregnancy can help mothers relieve back aches, reduce constipation, prevent wear and tear of joints, sleep better, prepare for birth, and regain their pre-pregnant body more quickly.

They also advise that mothers should heed their body and stop exercising when they feel tired, dizzy, feel short of breath, feel pain in their backs or pelvis, or have heart palpitations.

Dr Guttmacher’s Pregnancy, Birth & Family Planning” advise against exercise if you have had preterm labour or a prior history of one, vaginal bleeding, cervical incompetence, ruptured membranes (broken water bag), a foetus that is not growing properly, pregnancy-induced high blood pressure, twins or multiple pregnancy. You should also check with your doctor if you have any pre-pregnant medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease or thyroid disease.

I also did a quick check on running while pregnant since I ran 15km on the Sunday

Runner’s World began with a quote from Olympic champion Joan Samuelson as she talked about running for two: “It was a beautiful winter day – snowy but sunny – and I felt great running on snow-packed roads. I was as pregnant as possible – for that evening, I gave birth. I had gone out for a five-miler, but I felt I could have run forever. No matter how much time passes, I can still mentally put myself on that road. A perfect run on a perfect day.” (From Joan Samuelson’s Running for Women.)

Although running is not entirely discouraged, the general consensus is that it is not for everyone and you should seek your doctor’s advice. A number of sources advise against exercises and sports that involve jumping, bouncing, possibility of injury to the abdomen and sports with a high likelihood of falls.

After all that, I’ve decided to heed the obstetrician’s advice and stick to walking, cycling and swimming – although I have yet to do any of these. I have to admit that I’ve been particularly lazy, but I intend to change that now that the nausea and vomiting is easing off. before I discovered I was pregnant and found the take on it quite varied.

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