I’m three months pregnant, and my husband and I are debating whether or not it’s wise for me to keep jogging. I’ve been running for the past ten years and want to keep it up now that I’m pregnant. He’s afraid it’s bad for our baby and bad for me.
Times have certainly changed. In the past we discouraged women from having any physical activity during pregnancy — we feared it might rob precious blood flow from the uterus and baby. Today, exercise is considered part of a healthy lifestyle and part of a healthy pregnancy. Women who have normal, uncomplicated pregnancies are encouraged to stay active.
Exercise will improve your mood, help you sleep better and feel better. It can ease some of the aches and pains of pregnancy, like constipation, leg cramps, bloating and swelling. Exercise builds strength and stamina to prepare you for the hard work of labor and delivery — which can be like running half a marathon! It won’t guarantee a painless delivery, but it can help ease the process and speed recovery.
But it can be tough, no matter what shape you’re in. A study of well-conditioned runners found performance was cut in half by early third trimester. The normal changes of pregnancy make it harder to exercise and impossible to reach your peak. Most women need 20 percent more oxygen in pregnancy. You have more blood, and your heart works harder to handle the load (increased heart rate). As the uterus grows, your spine alignment shifts forward, throwing off balance. And hormones relax the ligaments, especially in your hips and pelvis, making it easier for childbirth but harder for exercising. And yes, you gain weight — a fact that makes many activities more difficult.
Most exercise is safe in pregnancy as long as it’s done with caution. I think non-impact sports are best, to avoid possible falls or injuries. Swimming, stationary bicycles and yoga are excellent choices. Exercise classes geared toward pregnant women are another option and are a great way to meet other expectant moms. Sports you’re accustomed to doing prior to pregnancy can usually be continued, but use common sense and avoid risky activities. And if you weren’t active before pregnancy, be sure to go slowly.
Plan ahead. Wear loose, comfortable clothing. Drink plenty of water during and after exercise, and always listen to your body. Work up a good sweat but never push yourself to exhaustion. A good rule of thumb — you should be able to carry on a conversation. Always warm up and cool down, and keep an eye out for things that could throw you off balance. And avoid outdoor sports when it’s hot and humid. Occasional contractions are normal, but stop if you have regular contractions, experience any discomfort or feel lightheaded. Stop immediately and seek medical attention if you have chest pain or bleeding.
Regular exercise is great in pregnancy but talk to your doctor first. Women at risk for pre-term labor or complications of pregnancy should follow exercise routines tailored to their needs. Be sure to ask about specific sports that you like to do. And see if you have any medical problems that would limit your workouts.
Staying fit while pregnant is a wonderful idea — just keep it fun and safe!