A common misconception is that pregnancy is a time to only eat and rest. However, exercise and a healthy diet during pregnancy are twice as important for the health of both mother and child. A woman must try to stay physically active throughout the pregnancy and after, this lowers her chance of excessive weight gain, gestational diabetes, and retaining weight after birth.
Gaining weight is normal during pregnancy, however gaining too much weight is not ideal. This is more true for women who are already overweight or obese. Excessive weight gain increases the risk of developing gestational diabetes. Also, it may have negative effects on the child. Overweight and obese women have a higher risk of having a very large baby, which predisposes them to complications during birth (1).
Exercise throughout pregnancy lowers the risk of excessive weight gain. It is good for circulation and lowers the risk for high blood pressure, this maintains health blood chemistry which is critical for a developing baby. Exercise also improves mood and may lower the risk of postpartum depression (2).
Exercise During Pregnancy
It is always recommended to consult a doctor to assure that exercise is okay during pregnancy. Certain conditions can make it dangerous and it is better to stay informed. For those who can exercise, they should.
Exercise during pregnancy helps keep healthy blood sugar and lipid levels. It strengthens the muscles, improves circulation, and may improve low back pain. Exercise is known to lower the risk for gestational diabetes, cesarian section, and preeclampsia (3).
Exercise After Pregnancy
There are countless benefits to exercising after pregnancy. Exercise helps strengthen and tighten the pelvic floor muscles after birth and speeds recovery. It lowers stress, improves sleep quality, and helps shed the baby weight. It is typically okay to exercise soon after delivery, but if complications arise then consult an obstetrician to find out when it is okay to begin exercise.
Kegel exercises and yoga are especially effective at strengthening pelvic floor muscles and the abdominal wall. A personal trainer can help plan a good workout routine to lose the baby weight and recover from birth. They can also teach which exercises strengthen what muscles and why.
How Much Exercise?
The intensity and frequency of exercises depend a lot on the physical capabilities of the woman. Women who had a very active lifestyle may want to slow down on and lower intensity while women that were sedentary need to gradually become more active.
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) recommend that a woman do around 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week (4). This should be distributed throughout the week to yield the most benefit- avoid being a weekend warrior. After pregnancy, it is recommended to gradually increase physical activity to get back to your normal exercise routine (from before pregnancy).
- “Pregnancy and Birth: Weight Gain in Pregnancy.” InformedHealth.org [Internet]., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 22 Mar. 2018, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0072759/.
- “The Role of Exercise in Treating Postpartum Depression: A Review of the Literature.” Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health, 3 Jan. 2007, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1526952306004466.
- “Impact of Exercise Training on Preeclampsia.” Hypertension, www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.112.194050.
- “Women’s Health Care Physicians.” ACOG, www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Exercise-During-Pregnancy.