Pregnancy, no matter at what age, is a time for staying ‘in shape’ and here’s why, says Dr. Mark P. Leondires.
When getting pregnant hasn’t been easy, and you’ve been through the emotional roller coaster of fertility treatment, it’s only natural to feel extra cautious or nervous when you finally do become pregnant.
Many people wonder if they should or can continue exercising after becoming pregnant – and if so, how can they exercise safely?
As a fertility doctor who sees this worry play out frequently, I typically offer the same reassuring advice: Yes, you can exercise! Unless directed otherwise by your physician, exercising during pregnancy, even early pregnancy, can be an important factor in both your physical and emotional health.
However, there are a few things to keep in mind to help you exercise safely and remain confident that you are making the best possible choices for yourself and your baby. Most importantly, always consult with your personal physician before beginning any exercise regimen, as they will take into account your full health history and offer the most tailored guidance for you.
My advice? Refrain from any strenuous, exhaustive exercise regimens such as marathons, intense spin classes, or any other activity that requires you to push your body past a moderate-intensity level of movement. Some examples of exercise shown to be safe and beneficial during pregnancy include walking, stretching, water aerobics or swimming, and cycling on a stationary bike.
Always listen to your body, stay well hydrated, and stop when you feel like it. Early pregnancy already requires a lot of energy and is a stress on your body, so be mindful to not overdo it. A good rule of thumb: if you’re unsure if a certain exercise is safe, err on the side of caution and avoid it. You will never regret being too careful during pregnancy.
The following list of recommendations includes guidelines set by The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists on exercise during pregnancy, and offer helpful reminders for anyone who’s expecting:
- Regular, consistent exercise (at least 3 times per week) is preferable to sporadic, intense physical activity.
- If you exercised regularly prior to pregnancy, your body is more used to a certain level of activity. If you didn’t exercise regularly before becoming pregnant, ease into it gently to see what type of movement feels best.
- Vigorous exercise should not be performed in hot, humid weather or while you are sick. Rest up, and get back to exercising once you feel better.
- Strenuous exercise should not exceed 15 minutes. Additionally, any form of exercise should be preceded by a 5-minute muscle warm-up and followed by a cool-down period.
- Activities that require jumping or rapid changes in direction should be avoided because of joint instability. Swimming, biking, and walking are ideal ways to move your body during pregnancy.
- Activities such as sitting in a hot tub or sauna should be avoided throughout pregnancy.
- Pregnant people should always drink fluids before, during, and after exercise to prevent dehydration.
- High impact activities should always be avoided during pregnancy.
Despite the trouble you had getting pregnant, try to remember that most pregnancies do end up healthy and successful. Don’t let your history of fertility struggles ruin the joy of finally being pregnant.
Talk to your doctor and the nursing staff at your fertility clinic and ask for tailored advice and reassurance as needed. Try to resist the often confusing tips from “Dr. Google” or well-meaning friends or family members about what you should or shouldn’t do, and trust the experts.
Most of all, do your best to stay positive and hopeful. You’ve worked so hard to get here, and you deserve to enjoy every moment of your pregnancy.
No matter your age, exercising during pregnancy is hugely beneficial to both you and your future child. Always follow the guidance of your own personal physician, and explore different types of movement until you find the one that feels right to you.
For more information on exercise during pregnancy, visit The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Mark P. Leondires, Medical Director and lead infertility doctor with Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut (RMACT), is board-certified in both Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility.