Recently, there has been a lot of debate about exercise and pregnancy due to the rise of pregnant women staying active. When discussing this topic, many encourage women to maintain an active lifestyle while pregnant, while others criticize such women, suggesting they hurt their bodies and babies.
Published in The Journal of Reproductive Medicine, Dr. Morris and Dr. Johnson’s article reviewed clinically relevant literature to conclude that moderate exercise for pregnant women is safe for both mother and fetus. Although there is decreased blood flow during strenuous exercise, there appears to be a compensatory mechanism of a shift of blood flow to the placenta and increased oxygen extraction. The body’s way of maintaining temperature also changes during early pregnancy, which may have a protective effect on both the baby and the mother while the baby is developing. This change may limit stress caused by a temperature increase in women who continue to exercise throughout pregnancy.
In the low-risk pregnancy group, Morris noticed that there are no apparent adverse pregnancy outcomes with moderate exercise—no increased risk of miscarriage, preterm labor, or preterm birth. While exercise has been shown to improve maternal fitness and well-being, more research about the effects of exercise on weight gain and labor outcomes is needed.
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Filhol and his team conducted a study to show that moderate exercise programs during pregnancy provide benefits for preventing and treating complications during pregnancy. It is recommended that pregnant women take part in aerobics exercise for 30 minutes, 3-6 times per week, and strength training 1-2 times per week.
Benefits of mild to moderate physical activity during pregnancy include:
- Ease or prevention of back pain and other discomforts
- Boost of mood and energy levels
- Better sleep
- Reduced excess weight gain
- Increased stamina and muscle strength
- Reduced risk pregnancy-related diabetes and high blood pressure
- Lessened symptoms of postpartum depression
- Potentially reduced risk of fetal macrosomia (larger-than-average baby)
Main reasons for the mother to not engage in exercise include:
- Pre-existing diabetes
- Some forms of heart and lung disease
- Pre-existing pregnancy-related high blood pressure
- Cervical problems
- Vaginal bleeding
- Preterm labor during your pregnancy or a prior pregnancy
- A multiple pregnancy at risk of preterm labor
If you are expecting or planning to start a family soon, exercise may prove to be beneficial for you. Even if you would rather lay on the couch and eat ice cream all day, throw on those running shoes and find an exercise routine that works for you!
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