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EXERCISE IN PREGNANCY

WHY IS MY DOCTOR CONCERNED ABOUT THE KIND OF EXERCISE I DO DURING MY PREGNANCY?

Exercise makes you feel good and look good. Your physician wants to be sure you set up a safe exercise program. It is important that you know of any risks that could affect both you and your growing baby. If you provide your doctor with accurate information about the kind of exercise, frequency, and intensity you are used to or would like, a satisfactory exercise program can be set up to carry you through your pregnancy.

WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS TO MY BODY DURING PREGNANCY THAT CHANGES THE WAY EXERCISE AFFECTS BOTH THE BABY AND ME?

Your ligaments become easier to stretch. That is why you may feel a little wobbly just walking. It is easier to sprain something, like an ankle, or to pull a muscle. As your baby grows, your weight distribution is different, your center of gravity changes which may make it easier for you to lose your balance. Your ability to catch your breath (get enough oxygen), is decreased during exercise. Because of these changes in your breathing and circulation systems you may occasionally experience dizziness or weakness. Now, when you exercise, you will notice you don't have the aerobic capacity you did before. With some adjustments you can continue to enjoy exercising and return slowly, to your desired program after your baby is born and your body is ready.

ARE THERE TIMES WHEN I SHOULD NOT EXERCISE AT ALL?

Yes! Your doctor may tell you to avoid exercise if you:

  1. Have problems with early labor.
  2. Are excessively overweight or underweight. However, you may be encouraged to do light exercise, such as regular walking.
  3. Have blood pressure, heart, lung, or thyroid problems.
  4. Have experienced vaginal bleeding during the pregnancy.
  5. Have a placenta that is covering the bottom part of your womb (placenta previa).
  6. Are having problems with your baby's growth.
  7. Have a baby that that is in a position different than head downward during the last few months of your pregnancy. An example of this is breech.
  8. Are severely anemic.
  9. Have leaking from your bag of water.
  10. Have experienced #1, 3, 5, or 7 on the above list during a different pregnancy.

HOW ABOUT SOME GUIDELINES FOR SAFE EXERCISING THAT I CAN USE DURING MY PREGNANCY?

  1. Drink enough before exercising, even in the winter. Also, drink fluids while exercising.
  2. Warm up slowly, at least 5 minutes before starting.
  3. Stretch, but not to your limit so as not to injure your ligaments. Remember, they are looser now.
  4. Avoid exercises with jerky or bouncing motions.
  5. Use a stable floor. Avoid loose rugs that may slide.
  6. Exercise regularly (every other day), not just once in a while.
  7. No competitive exercises.
  8. Do not exercise during hot humid weather or if you have a fever.
  9. Your body temperature should not go above 38 degree C. (101 degrees F.). Avoid the use of hot tubs and saunas.
  10. After the 4th month, do not exercise lying down on your back.
  11. No weight lifting or anything where you hold your breath and strain. Avoid doing sit-ups or abdominal crunches since these can cause some weakening of the area between the abdominal (stomach) muscles.
  12. During pregnancy caloric intake is to be over and above your usual need. Adjust it to your level of activity.
  13. Avoid strenuous exercise at altitude.

HOW ABOUT THINGS OTHER PREGNANT WOMEN HAVE FOUND HELPFUL?

Choose exercise shoes that feel secure and help your balance. Support hose can help your legs feel better during and after exercise. Watch how you put your feet down, especially if you are planning to walk and there is ice outside. If you need to increase your bra size you might go right into a nursing bra if you plan to nurse, or you may need an athletic bra for more support during your workouts. Put your feet up with pride, this allows any swelling of your ankles to go down. Your body is working hard helping your baby grow, 24 hours a day!

I'VE ALWAYS WANTED TO TAKE UP A NEW SPORT, LIKE TENNIS. I DON'T EVEN LOOK PREGNANT YET. IS THIS A GOOD IDEA?

It is NOT a good idea to take up a new sport while pregnant. But you can begin something that is on the "good for pregnancy" list, that will give you a head start in beginning tennis after your baby is born. Some good sports are, Yoga (without breath holding), swimming, pregnancy classes, stationary bicycling (gently), easy stretching (but not to your limit), and don't forget about daily walking in fresh air!

TRUTHFULLY, I AM WORRIED ABOUT GAINING WEIGHT DURING THIS PREGNANCY. I LIKE TO EXERCISE, CAN OVERDOING IT CAUSE ANY PROBLEMS?

There are several things to remember. Being pregnant is not being fat. Exercise does release a chemical into the body called "endorphins" which gives you that feeling of well being. Even with adjustments, your body will have that feeling of "well being." Lastly, gaining 25 to 40 lbs. is healthy. Your baby's size and health depends on this increased nutrition (But we don't mean candy, cola, and chips). You must normally INCREASE calories during exercise for your pregnancy and INCREASE calories and fluid over and above that for exercise. If you do not have enough calories, your body can go into a chemical state called ketosis which can cause developmental problems for your baby. If you don't get enough calories regularly during pregnancy your baby may not grow as well.

IF I STOPPED EXERCISING REGULARLY A FEW MONTHS AGO, AND WANT TO START BACK UP, WHAT SHOULD I DO?

Begin very slowly with low intensity. Remember, even if you are in great shape, you will not be able to do what you did. Pregnancy is a special time and requires not lower goals, but special ones to help you and your growing child feel happy and stay well.

WHAT ARE THE REWARDS OF A SENSIBLE PROGRAM?

Your baby will be growing safely. You will feel and look good. After the birth of the baby it will make it easier to return to the exercise program of your choice.

WHEN SHOULD I STOP EXERCISING IMMEDIATELY AND CALL MY DOCTOR?

If any of the following happen to you, stop what you are doing and call your doctor immediately:

  1. Regular contractions.
  2. Vaginal bleeding or leaking of fluid.
  3. Blacking out or fainting.
  4. Shortness of breath.
  5. Pain.
  6. Unusually fast heart beating that doesn't seem to pass.
  7. Anything else that concerns you.

IS IT SAFE FOR ME TO USE A SAUNA, SPA, OR HOT TUB?

The high heat to the body from these activities may have a harmful effect on your baby. There is a very small possibility that the brain and spine areas of your baby may not form the right way.

Avoid these activities during pregnancy. If you have already been in a hot area such as a sauna or hot tub, let your doctor and staff know now. You will be offered a blood test for alpha-fetoprotein around the fourth month of pregnancy that can help find out if your baby might have the type of problem mentioned above. More information on this test will be given to you.

Upd II,19,97

Copyright ã 1987, 1993, 1997 Advanced Medical Systems, Inc.