Exercise in Pregnancy :: We Can and We Should

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Back in the old days, if you were pregnant, you were pretty much told to take it easy, relax, don’t push yourself too hard, and put your feet up. The view of activity in pregnancy was vastly different from what it is today–thank goodness! Since those days, we now have research on exercise in pregnancy and the benefits for both mom and baby. Today, pregnant women are running long distance races, participating in Crossfit competitions, and even winning the Olympics (you go, Kerri Walsh Jennings)!

You certainly wouldn’t show up to run a marathon race without ever putting in any practice miles beforehand. When people show up to run a marathon, they have put their bodies through physical preparations to get them to a place where they are ready to complete this intense physical event. Labor and delivery is no different! Anyone who has done it can attest to the fact that delivering a child is an intense physical event. It can be compared to running a marathon. So why do many moms show up on the day of delivery without ever putting in any physical preparations and just expect their bodies to complete the task?

Even though exercise is recommended for pregnant women, many pregnant patients do not receive this information from their doctors. In fact, the majority of pregnant women never exercise during their pregnancies. With all the benefits that evidence shows, every mom or mom-to-be should know about this research so they can be empowered to make the best choices for the health of themselves and their babies.

exercise in pregnancy

The Benefits for Mom

If you have been through pregnancy before, you may be aware of all the issues that can complicate it: gestational hypertension, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and many more.

I feel confident that either you or someone you know has had to have her labor induced because of high blood pressure. What if there was a way to prevent these pregnancy complications? Good news, friends, there is–it’s exercise.

Issues Exercise Can Prevent

*These statistics are in comparison to pregnant patients in the studies who did not exercise. In general, exercise was defined as 30-60 minutes of moderate exercise at least three times per week).

  • reduces rates of high blood pressure and preeclampsia in pregnancy by 50-75% 
  • 16% reduction in Cesarean delivery rates
  • shorter duration of labor
  • 55% reduction in risk of gestational diabetes
  • faster postpartum recovery
  • reduction in musculoskeletal aches and pains of pregnancy
  • improves mood
  • reduces swelling

The Benefits for Baby

From the moment we find out that we are expecting, all we can think about is how to keep our little ones healthy in our womb and how to keep them healthy once delivered. It can be overwhelming to read all the blogs or to hear all the suggestions from loving family members about how to keep your baby safe and healthy (especially in these COVID times). 

Exercise is one easy way to help you and your baby’s health all at once for the present and the future.

Here is a list of the benefits of exercise during pregnancy for the fetus:

  • reduction in risk of fetal macrosomia (large birthweight)
  • reduction in risk of blood sugar instability after birth
  • lower heart rate (a sign of heart health)
  • increased cognitive development

General Recommendations

The general rule of thumb is that if you have been engaging in a particular exercise for at least six months prior to becoming pregnant, then it is safe to continue throughout pregnancy. Obviously, you want to get your doctor’s okay before starting any exercise in pregnancy, and you do not need to start any new activity once your pregnancy has started.

For example, going from no exercise to weightlifting and high intensity interval training is not ideal. Stay with what your body has already become used to before pregnancy. Maybe for you that means fast paced walking or doing stairs at your house. For some, it might be Crossfit, cycling, or running. But whatever it is, get moving and stay moving! You got this, momma!

exercise in pregnancy
This is me carrying my precious Asher. I did Crossfit workouts up until I was 38 weeks pregnant and know it was a big reason why I had such a healthy and enjoyable pregnancy.

References and Further Reading

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An Alabama native, Caroline studied nursing at Samford University and stayed until she completed her doctoral work. She then started working as a Family Nurse Practitioner, where her main passion is lifestyle medicine. She is also a pastor’s wife and a professor of Women's Healthcare in a nurse practitioner program. When she isn’t working, you can find Caroline at church, exercising, and spending time with her family and friends. Out of all of Caroline’s roles, being a mother and wife are her biggest priority and greatest treasure. She resides in Vestavia with her husband, Kyle, and 1 year old son, Asher, and is currently pregnant with another precious baby boy.

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