Prepare for healthy pregnancy and an empowered labor with these tips
In addition to contributing to a faster, easier labor and a quick recovery, exercise during pregnancy keeps mom fit and feeling her best during those 40 weeks. Exercise during pregnancy is proven to shorten active labor time by over 33%! There are many other health benefits including reduced incidence of backache, constipation, bloating and swelling; increased energy; improved mood and posture, enhanced muscle tone, strength and endurance; and better sleep. So clearly exercise is a powerful tool to support a healthy pregnancy but how do you exercise safely during this special time?
Exercise even if you didn’t before pregnancy.
There are actually more risks associated with being sedentary during a healthy pregnancy than starting a new exercise program, even if you were a couch potato before you were pregnant. Start with as little as 5 minutes of exercise per day and gradually work up to 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week. Activities safe for beginners include walking, swimming and cycling, as well as light to moderate resistance training (weight lifting). Speak with your doctor about a modified program if you have limitations.
Nix the heart rate monitor.
You may have been told to use a heart rate monitor, but they’re actually not reliable during pregnancy and can be a source of anxiety. Instead, use the talk test: if you can carry on a light conversation, you’re at the right intensity. If you’re absolutely breathless, you’re probably working too hard. On the other hand, if you can belt out a Broadway tune you might need to pick up your pace a bit.
Work your abs.
Core strength can help dramatically with pushing during delivery because the core muscles are integral to the birth process. However, many pregnant women shy away from abdominal exercises out of confusion about what’s safe – and for good reason! Conventional abdominal exercises, such as sit-ups and crunches, put too much strain on the connective tissue that runs along the midline of the abdominal muscles and can weaken the core. As an alternative, do “core compressions” for a simple yet effective strengthener: draw your belly into your spine and repeatedly squeeze it even tighter as you exhale. See the Dia prenatal videos Firm Foundation and BellyGuard for more detailed instruction.
And bonus tip…
Don’t take it lying down.
Avoid back-lying exercises during 2nd and 3rd trimester as this position can interfere with circulation. ACOG has a list of warning signs to know when to stop exercising, but if you’re feeling drained, fatigued or slightly off, cool down and stop for the day. You should feel invigorated, not exhausted at the end of each workout. During pregnancy, listen to your body even more than usual.
Get up and get active – take your first step today toward a fit and healthy pregnancy! You’ll be so glad you did.
 “The course of labor after endurance exercise during pregnancy.” Clapp JF 3rd. Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Vermont College of Medicine, Burlington. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology [1990, 163(6 Pt 1):1799-1805]