With my wife being 20-weeks pregnant this 2-part series hits close to home. Kari being an amazing wife and mom isn’t letting her pregnancy slow her down. In fact, in two weeks she will be running a half-marathon. I’m really excited for her!
In part one of this series I talked about some general guidelines for exercising while pregnant, some steps to make sure you can exercise safely, some benefits, and some exercises to perform. In this post I want to talk about body changes during pregnancy, exercises to avoid, warning signs, and exercise after the baby is born.
The Impact of Relaxin on Your Joints and Ligaments
Everyone knows about the basic bodily changes when a woman gets pregnant, but did you know that pregnancy affects your joints and ligaments? The hormone is aptly named relaxin. Relaxin is a hormone produced by the ovary and the placenta with important effects in the female reproductive system and during pregnancy.
In preparation for childbirth, relaxin relaxes the ligaments in the pelvis and softens and widens the cervix. While this is great during childbirth, it can be problematic after and sometimes during pregnancy. It’s important to be aware of the added risk of injury because of this, and what to do to offset this.
There are three different areas to be addressed during pregnancy to offset these effects. The first being to exercise in a way that strengthens your core, this will help with potential back pains from the excess weight. The other two involve doing exercises that require balance and have some safe instability, these types of exercises will improve your overall balance and strength, and ultimately be helpful in getting you back to exercise after the baby is born.
Balance and Stability Exercise
Examples would be, doing a plank or starting on all fours on the floor and doing opposite arm and leg extensions. Both of these have stability and balance components and will help improve your overall core strength and function.
Avoid Exercise That Have a High Risk for Falling
This may be obvious but, avoid exercise that has a high risk for falling, these include climbing, trampolines, horseback riding, and others. Generally, high contact sports are not ideal. Scuba Diving can be dangerous for your baby because of pressure changes to the fluids surrounding your baby.
Exercise is really important during pregnancy, even if it can only be walking, but there are risks associated with certain positions, agility type exercises and sports, and as said before, sports that cause jarring and collisions. Avoiding these exercises and looking for the warning signs listed below will keep you and your baby safe.
Some warning signs to look for during exercise include, dizziness, chest pain, headache, uterine contractions, decreased baby movement, vaginal bleeding or fluid leaking, and muscle weakness or swelling.
- Start a new routine slowly if you haven’t exercised before. Begin with 5-10 minutes a day and add 5 minutes a day until about 30 minutes.
- Avoid exercise on your back after the first trimester.
- Avoid higher intensity exercise when there is humid or hot weather.
- Eat – Eat enough food to compensate for the baby’s need and the exercise.
- Drink lots of water (64-80 ounces).
- Wear comfortable clothing.
Getting Back to Your Routine
After the baby, it is important to get back into an exercise routine, but only begin exercising after your doctor has approved starting your fitness routine again. Once your doctor gives approval, begin slowly and work your way up to pre-pregnancy intensity. Monitoring your heart rate, the way your body is responding to the exercise, and your fatigue after you exercise is important in knowing how hard to push yourself.
A great way to get back to your routine is taking daily walks and observing how your body responds to the stressors. There are many ways to approach getting back to your routine, however, I do have general recommendations below.
- After you have the baby, I recommend increasing intensity and time in intervals over the course of many days.
- Start with 5-10 minutes of moderate intensity and increase to 30 minutes over the course of several days (up to 5 days).
- Continue to increase in intensity and time as your body allows.
- These recommendations may not apply to everyone, some women are able to jump right back into similar exercise form, others may need to take it more slowly.
- Make sure to continue consulting with your physician as you increase exercise intensity.
No matter how you choose to exercise, it is great for you and your new baby, this gives you time to get out of the house, go for a walk with some friends or your hubby, and begins the process of getting you back to pre-pregnancy fitness and weight.
Check out this SMART Goals post for setting exercise goals.