Staying healthy during pregnancy is essential, but there’s more to it than good nutrition. While some women may be wary about working out while pregnant, exercise is actually an important way to feel your best and help relieve some of the common side effects of pregnancy.
According to Dr. Beki Denman, an OB/GYN with Women’s Health Alliance at St.Vincent Carmel, the advantages of exercise during pregnancy are numerous. “It’s the same as when you’re not pregnant – exercise helps to build muscle and bone,” says Denman. “That means improved posture and fewer backaches. Exercise also helps with some of the common complaints during pregnancy, such as constipation, bloating and swelling, and sleeplessness. In some studies, it has even been shown to prevent gestational diabetes, especially in obese women. Of course, when a woman is fit, it can also make labor and delivery easier, as well.”
Whether you choose to walk, do yoga or even weight train, being active is an excellent idea for mothers-to-be. If you listen to your body and don’t push yourself too hard along the way, you may even be able to maintain an exercise routine up to the moment of labor! However, there are some pre-existing medical conditions or complications during pregnancy that can make exercise problematic in some situations, so be sure to talk to your health provider if you have any concerns.
Considering the fatigue and nausea that sometimes accompany the first trimester of pregnancy, maintaining a regular exercise routine can be challenging near the beginning. Denman reminds her patients that getting back into it slowly is a good idea. “They can start with as little as five minutes a day, every day if possible, and then increase weekly for five more minutes a day, up to 30 minutes a day. That, along with healthy eating that includes increased protein, is always important in pregnancy.”
The same rule applies after the baby arrives: start slowly and then return to a routine at the rate your body allows. Denman notes, “A new mom is going to be sleep deprived for a little while and very fatigued. And the changes that go along with being pregnant can last four to six weeks after delivery, including looser joints and ligaments, and balance changes. Some women, however, can start working out as soon as a few days after delivery if they start by walking and build up to more strenuous exercises.”
Women looking for counsel and care before and after childbirth can soon rely on St.Vincent Carmel Women’s Center, opening in March. Denman believes it will provide a huge asset for all women, not just those who are pregnant or postpartum. “The most important benefit will be the comprehensive coordination of care,” says Denman. “That means being able to do everything in one place and schedule appointments together in a way that fits a woman’s busy lifestyle and need for convenience. The arrival of the Women’s Center is going to make a big difference.”
Don’t miss the Grand Opening of St.Vincent Carmel Women’s Center on Saturday, March 14. Free events include stroller fitness classes to help new moms learn valuable exercise techniques. Visit stvincent.org/womenscenter for details.