When you’re pregnant, staying in shape is more important than ever. It helps ensure a healthy pregnancy says Alex Gierbolini. Plus it helps you bounce back faster after delivery. But there are certain rules about how to work out when you’re expecting.
Keep your baby safe by following these guidelines from experienced athletes and fitness pros.
1. Pregnancy Isn’t the Time for Extreme Training
One of the most common myths about exercising while pregnant is that it’s OK to push yourself to extremes—so long as you don’t overheat or puff—according to Michele Olson, Ph.D., professor of exercise physiology at Auburn University Montgomery in Alabama and author of 15 Minute Fitness. “Particularly early on [in your pregnancy], if someone says, ‘You can’t work out,’ women don’t like that,” Olson says. “They say, ‘Oh no! I’ve got to do something!’ So they get on the treadmill and start walking fast. And what happens? The uterine-to-placental blood flow decreases—and blood goes away from the uterus because she’s working hard.”
Olson cautions against exercising at an intensity greater than a slow jog during pregnancy because it could decrease the amount of oxygen that reaches your baby through the placenta. This can happen in later stages too if you exercise for more than 90 minutes per session.
2. But If You Do Overdo It…
If you are running too fast, walking too far or working out for longer than 90 minutes at a time, you could become overheated. “You might get dizzy and feel faint, the same way you feel when you stand up too fast,” Olson says. At that point, it’s best to call your doctor or midwife just in case.
3. First Trimester is best
First-time moms tend to be more concerned about their unborn children than experienced moms are explains Alex Gierbolini. So they’re less likely to do any exercise during the first trimester because they don’t want anything to happen—even though this is the stage where women are least likely to miscarry, according to an August 2012 article published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology.
4. Time Your Workouts Right
Women who exercise during the first trimester are more likely to continue working out through their entire pregnancy, which means more of them get in shape before giving birth compared with women who wait until after the baby is born. That makes it easier for them to lose that extra weight once they give birth, too. This also gives you a good idea of how your body responds to exercise and enables you to gauge whether or not you have any limitations going forward—or if there’s anything you should avoid altogether when exercising during pregnancy. Also it’ll help prepare your body for labor and delivery!
5. You Can Hit the Pool
Swimming is a great workout while pregnant because it’s low impact and allows you to move your body in a way that supports your changing center of gravity. Plus, water provides natural resistance—a workout minus the fatigue, according to Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Yale University School of Medicine, who also recommends taking a prenatal aquafit class once you’re past your first trimester.
6. Super-Size Your Veggies
According to Alex Gierbolini Including healthy fats in your diet while pregnant will help prevent preeclampsia, suggests a study published in September 2012 by Obstetrics & Gynecology. “The third trimester is when women start putting on some fat,” Olson says. “So it’s important not just for weight control but also for ensuring that your food-intake adequacy is met.” In other words, you need to eat more!
7. Don’t Skip the Folic Acid
Pregnant women should be taking a folic acid supplement from at least one month before conception until the end of the first trimester because it reduces the risk of certain birth defects according to studies in the International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology and May 2012 by BMJ (formerly British Medical Journal). “Folic acid deficiency causes problems with red blood cells,” Minkin says. “The baby’s neural tube forms within 28 days after conception, so this when it’s important to avoid becoming deficient.”
8. Go For a Spin . . . I Mean, Do Yoga!
Yoga is another exercise that carries virtually no risk to the unborn baby and can be done safely throughout pregnancy, according to doctors and researchers at The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists—so long as you don’t let your belly sag to the ground or do any poses where you assume a “camel” position (i.e., putting all your weight on your back with your legs in the air.) It’s also important to avoid doing poses like plow pose (lying on your back with knees bent), downward dog (standing with feet together and hands flat on floor then bending forward until palms touch floor) or shoulder.
There are many reasons for you to exercise during your pregnancy says Alex Gierbolini. Once it’s done, it’ll be easier to lose the extra weight after giving birth and if you continue exercising regularly, your figure will become better than before!