Monday, February 11, 2008

Fitness for Expectant Mothers: Part 2

Guidelines to Starting an Exercise Program

Before you begin an exercise program, it is important to get approval from your doctor. According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG), there are certain conditions for which exercise is definitely not recommended:

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Once your doctor has given you the OK to exercise, be on the lookout for certain warning signs during your workouts. They are:

If you experience any of these signs, you should immediately stop your exercise program and contact your doctor or medical practitioner.


Try not to beat yourself up if you find that you can't maintain the level of your old workout program. Modify your program and listen to your body. If something doesn't feel right, it's best to stop. Your body changes tremendously during these nine months, and that will alter your fitness regime. Let's look at some of these changes:

And don't forget those hormonal changes . . .


What to Expect



The first trimester is an exciting time of your pregnancy. There are many changes that occur, for both you and your baby. If you have been working out moderately, continue with your program and add the exercises recommended in Chapter 5. If you've been sedentary, don't all of a sudden dive into a high-level exercise routine. Start slowly. Your body will be adapting to the changes of being pregnant. It is not recommended to have sore and achy muscles due to a strenuous exercise program. Try not to get overheated during the first six weeks, and try not to exercise on your back for extended periods of time. The ACOG advises women to stay off their back altogether during pregnancy. Supine hypotensive syndrome occurs when the enlarged uterus places pressure on the inferior vena cava (the vein that returns blood to the heart from the torso and legs), inducing nausea, dizziness, breathing difficulties, and a claustrophobic feeling. I tell my clients to listen to their body. If you feel OK on your back for short periods of time, that's fine. But once you feel the slightest bit of dizziness, roll over on your side and take the pressure off the vena cava.

Eating a balanced diet and staying well hydrated is crucial during pregnancy. Don't decide now is the time to go on a crash diet or one of those "diets of the week." During the first trimester, you will find yourself tiring easily. Let's face it, your hormones are going crazy with all of their changes, and that baby growing inside of you is very demanding. Its metabolic needs leave you exhausted. Motivating yourself to work out seems impossible. But once you get started, you will feel rejuvenated and happy that you mustered up the energy to exercise.

Another common symptom of the first trimester is morning sickness. Nausea commonly occurs in over half of all pregnancies. Hormonal changes, emotional factors, a slowed digestive system, and the growing uterus are all common causes. Morning sickness tends to worsen with an empty stomach and fatigue, so keep your eye on those two areas. Small meals and plenty of rest can help alleviate this problem. Ask your doctor about special prenatal vitamins if you experience morning sickness. Some women will experience more morning sickness than others. Try slow walks and lots of stretching. Take it one day at a time, and adapt your routine to how you feel. Some women find light exercise eases their morning sickness.

Listen to your body, and don't try to set personal records. Be flexible and adapt your program if need be. Again, avoid overheating and drink plenty of fluids (hydrating your body will help you regulate your body temperature). Keep away from high-intensity workouts. Most of all, try to enjoy yourself during your workouts. Remember, you're having a baby!



Finally, you're starting to get used to the feeling of being pregnant. You feel better, you're more comfortable, and you may even feel the baby moving inside you. This is the time when you start to show, as well. Hopefully, morning sickness starts to fade, you have more energy, and you look forward to your workouts. Pay special attention to dizziness when you are lying on your back. Your uterus is thickening and growing now, putting even more pressure on the vena cava. If s/he hasn't already, your doctor may now recommend prenatal vitamins.

Since nausea has usually disappeared by the second trimester, you may have a renewed interest in working out. You aren't yet subject to the physical discomforts that may appear in the later weeks of pregnancy, and your energy level may increase because fetal organ development is mostly complete. By week 14, your baby is four and a half inches long and weighs about forty-five grams. Between weeks 18 to 22, he or she is quite active, and you will probably feel your baby move. Keep your workouts fairly intense and continue drinking plenty of water. Be especially careful during high-impact sports activities. Read Chapter 4 to learn which activities are recommended and which you should avoid. A diet that is high in fiber and includes plenty of fluids is encouraged now, as you may encounter some problems with constipation.

Some women may periodically feel their uterus tightening. These contractions, called Braxton Hicks, are harmless. You will probably continue to experience them throughout your pregnancy as your body prepares itself for birth. While Braxton Hicks are completely normal, if they occur more than four times an hour, call your doctor.

During the second trimester, your doctor should test you for gestational diabetes. A positive result should not discourage you from exercise; just make sure you discuss with your doctor any activities to avoid. If you have any of the below symptoms, be sure to discuss them with your doctor, as you may have a greater chance of developing gestational diabetes.



Hooray, the last trimester of your pregnancy! You're just getting the knack of having a super-duper belly. It's unusual to still have morning sickness, and I'm sure you don't miss that daily nightmare. Your baby is moving around more and more-sometimes it may feel like there is a kickboxing class in there! You find yourself making frequent trips to Baby Gap and putting finishing touches on the nursery. At about twenty-eight weeks, your baby measures around twenty inches and weighs about two-plus pounds. It is amazing how much growth occurs during the third trimester. Toward the end, the baby measures around twenty-six inches and weighs between six and eight pounds!

Since that belly of yours is quite big, it's no surprise that you are feeling a bit uncomfortable. Third-trimester moms-to-be experience insomnia-it's hard to find a comfortable position while sleeping. Exercise is an excellent way to find some relief. Now is the time you really have to listen to your body when working out. As long as you feel good, it's quite possible to exercise until the day of your labor.

Some of my clients report that they find it easier to breathe once the baby "drops"-no, not out of your body, but to the lower pelvis. This usually happens a month or two before delivery. Breathing is easier because there isn't as much pressure on the diaphragm as there used to be.

Relaxin, a pregnancy hormone, is responsible for the softening of the hip joints. As a result of the increased flexibility, you may catch yourself waddling. Also, the enlarged uterus throws your posture off, causing you to have a slight swayback. This can cause backaches throughout the final trimester. Strengthening and stretching the lower back will ease this discomfort.

All right, now that you know what to expect during those forty or so weeks, what kind of exercise program will make this time easier? What can you do to keep your body strong and prepared for the big event? The following chapters will outline, step by step, recommended aerobic, stretching, strengthening, and toning exercises you can do at home. These are safe, effective, and fun to do. Many women have found that doing these exercises made their deliveries easier and their postpartum recovery faster. Remember, everyone is different, so every body reacts differently to the dramatic changes you'll go through during the nine months of pregnancy. Doing these exercises will not guarantee you a simple, easy delivery, but the probability that it will help is great.

Excerpted from

Buff Moms-to-Be: The Complete Guide to Fitness for Expectant Mothers
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