In previous generations, women were encouraged to sit with their feet up and not overexert themselves during pregnancy. Since then, research has shown that both mothers and babies benefit from exercise during pregnancy.
According to WebMD.com and Babycenter.com, the benefits of exercise during pregnancy include:
– Shorter labor
– Better sleep
– More energy
– Reduction of discomforts
– Increase of stamina (which will aid in childbirth)
– Reduction of stress
– A faster return to your pre-pregnancy shape after delivery
Here are five common myths about the impact of exercise on pregnancy, and the truth behind them.
- Women who have never been active prior to pregnancy should avoid starting an exercise program.
According to WebMD.com, as long as you do not have any risk factors, and exercise under the guidance and encouragement of your doctor, you can start an exercise program during pregnancy even if you were not active before becoming pregnant. Now is not the time, though, to start training for a marathon. You and your baby can benefit from as little as walking for ten minutes each day.
- Don’t let your heart rate exceed 130-140 beats per minute during exercise.
While it is important to be aware of your level of exertion, it is better to go by your rate of perceived exertion than your heart rate, says WebMD.com. You don’t want to overexert yourself (and never to the point where your temperature exceeds 102 degrees Fahrenheit), so you should exercise at a level where you aren’t breathless, says AmericanPregnancy.org. Your level of exertion should be such that you can carry on a conversation with minimal effort. If you can do this without any effort, you can pick up the pace a little bit, but if you can’t say more than a few words without getting winded, it’s time to slow down. Of course, make sure while you are exercising that you stay hydrated. In addition to preventing dehydration, this will also help your body cool itself.
- You should avoid abdominal exercises during pregnancy.
Sue Fleming, a certified personal trainer, says (paraphrased from an article on WebMD.com), having strong abdominal muscles helps during labor, delivery, and recovery, so it is important to keep them strong throughout your pregnancy. While you should avoid any exercise that requires you to lay on your back after the 16th week of pregnancy, you can do seated and standing abdominal exercises, such as standing pelvic tilts, standing leg lifts (to strengthen oblique muscles), and holding your abs in while you breathe, which strengthens the transverse abdominals.
- Because your joints are looser, you should avoid stretching.
According to WebMD.com, while relaxin, the hormone that allows your joints to become looser during pregnancy, puts you at risk for joint injuries, it is still safe and important to stretch before and after exercising – within reason. Keep in mind that, even though you can now stretch further than ever before, you should still stay within your pre-pregnancy range of motion.
- Exercising will deprive my baby of vital nutrients.
Making sure your baby is getting all of the nutrients that he or she needs is extremely important during pregnancy. Thankfully, Mother Nature has built in defenses to protect the baby from losing out on these nutrients when you exercise. WebMD.com says, when you exercise, the baby will retain the nutrients he or she needs – you will dip into your own nutrient stores. Make sure to eat a healthy, balanced diet, and take a prenatal vitamin, especially if you exercise, and you shouldn’t need to worry too much about you or your baby getting the nutrients that you both need.