Moms-to-be who exercise during their pregnancies not only have fewer side effects — they also typically have an easier time with labor and delivery. If you’re having a healthy pregnancy with no activity restrictions, follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s exercise guidelines and aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week.
Stretching for Relaxation and Relief
As your baby bump grows, your center of gravity shifts to accommodate the extra weight, which alters your posture and places added stress on your back, hips and pelvis. Performing stretches that target your hip flexors, hamstrings, and the muscles in your upper and lower back is one of the best ways to combat back strain and get ready for labor.
You don’t have to join an organized group class to gain benefits. But participating in a prenatal yoga, Pilates or stretching class helps ensure you’re stretching safely. These classes also provide an opportunity to meet other women and incorporate breathing exercises that prepare you to better manage contractions during labor. Women in all stages of pregnancy can participate in most prenatal yoga, Pilates and stretching programs.
Don’t Forget Cardio
Cardiovascular exercise relieves stress and keeps your weight gain in check, while also helping you build the stamina and endurance needed for labor and delivery. Walking, cycling and swimming are among the low-impact aerobic options that are safe during all three trimesters. As a general rule, you’ll want to avoid high-impact, jarring activities, exercises that may cause you to lose your balance, and contact sports, such as basketball and soccer.
Safety for Two
Make sure your doctor is on board before starting your prenatal fitness plan. While exercising, work out in a cool environment, drink plenty of water and listen to your body. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends immediately taking a break and calling your doctor if you notice any of these signs:
- Chest pain
- Fewer kicks from baby
- Light-headedness, dizziness or muscle weakness
- Severe shortness of breath
- Vaginal bleeding or unusual discharge
Above all, remember that you don’t have to exercise for hours to see benefits. Even if you can only manage a short 10-minute walk, you’re taking steps toward a fitter pregnancy.