Let’s face it. There are a lot of conflicting messages women receive about exercising during their pregnancies. You’ve heard everything from “don’t exercise at all” to “just steer clear of hot yoga.” That’s why we sat down with Crystal A. Brogan, MD an OB/GYN with Main Line Health to get the facts and bust these myths about the dos and don’ts of prenatal workouts.
Myth #1: Pregnant women shouldn’t exercise
Definitely false. In uncomplicated, healthy pregnancies, studies show exercise is good for your pregnancy. It can result in reduced incidents of C-sections, gestational diabetes and also reduce the rate of weight gain—all of which contributes to a healthy mommy and a healthy baby.
However, Dr. Brogan advises not to push yourself too much. Know your limitations. When you’re exercising you should be able to hold a conversation. When you start to do more intense exercises, you’ll start to breathe heavy, which means you’re reducing the oxygen coming into your body and therefore, the baby. Also, make sure you’re staying hydrated because your body needs more water. Dehydration can cause cramping, overheating and the risk of passing out. As long as you’re taking the right precautions, exercise is perfectly fine.
Myth #2: Exercising while pregnant is dangerous
Again, no. Remember that thing we said about it being good for your pregnancy? Of course, there is nothing without risk but all of the above is still true here in a healthy pregnancy. There are a few things to keep in mind for your safety and the baby’s safety. First, it’s important to know where you’re starting from and understand your limitations. If you’re sedentary and want to start exercising now that you’ve become pregnant, that’s great but it’s important to start off slow. If you’re already active, keep it up! However, as your pregnancy progresses, certain tasks may become more difficult so always listen to your body and slow down when it tells you to.
Second, there is an increased risk of muscle injuries when you’re pregnant as a result of bodily changes. Pregnancy hormones make your joints relax so again, use your judgment.
Lastly, if you experience any bleeding, chest pain, muscle weakness, contractions, leakage of fluid or difficulty breathing, you need to stop and see your doctor right away, Dr. Brogan says. However, again, in uncomplicated and healthy pregnancies exercise is encouraged.
Myth #3: Pregnancy is not the time to start a workout routine
Absolutely not true. Dr. Brogan says one of the great things about pregnancy is it actually encourages a lot of people to focus on becoming healthy. You have increased access to physicians, and parenthood is a wonderful motivator. After all, taking care of another human being is a lot easier if you take care of yourself first. Therefore, pregnancy is a good time to optimize your health which can include starting exercise programs. Again, start off with some light walking; don’t just jump into marathon training right away. If you can keep up those healthy choices after pregnancy, it can also help with your overall health in the postpartum period as well.
Myth #4: Pregnancy means you have to dial down your physical activity
We’re talking to you, Marathon Moms and Crossfit Parents. Dr. Brogan says just because you’re pregnant it doesn’t mean you necessarily need to dial down your physical activity. “What I typically tell people is when they’re early on, they can continue to do the activities that they do with the exception of contact sports or high impact sports,” she says. However, running or some weight lifting is perfectly okay for a woman who is in shape.
Granted, patients should expect their body to change; you’re not going to be able to do as much farther down the line in your pregnancy. Your center of gravity will change, which will affect how much you can lift. You’re also going to put on weight, which may limit what you can do.
“I tell people to keep up with what they’re doing but expect that over time they’re going to have to decrease from their normal,” Dr. Brogan says.
Myth #5: Certain exercises are better than others
Exercise is a very personal thing—some people like yoga, some people don’t like yoga, there are people who like to run, people who hate to run. You have to find a program that’s going to work for you. Yoga is certainly good as long as it’s not hot yoga (there are some restrictions). Avoid lying on your stomach or on your back for long periods of time. Dr. Brogan says walking and swimming are really good. Stationary bicycling is also great because it reduces a woman’s risk of falling.
“You have to like exercise to sustain it,” she says. “I’m not going to tell you to run if you don’t like running.”
Additionally, core muscles are always key—it’s key for everything. Early on in pregnancy, it’s good to focus on abdominal and back muscles. Your back muscles take a hit in pregnancy because again, your center of gravity shifts forward. Strengthen those early on and you’ll thank yourself. Your pelvic floor is also important because pregnancy can cause damage and stretching to the pelvic floor so keep up with your kegels.
Myth #6: You’ll never bounce back to where you were pre-pregnancy
The third trimester of pregnancy is not comfortable, to say the least. If you’re getting frustrated with the fact you can’t do as much as you once were able, remember that pregnancy is a temporary thing. Once you get through the pregnancy and the postpartum period, you can get back up to where you were. It’s important to keep in mind that yes, you’ll have to slow down for now but with a little bit of work you’ll return to where you were.
Main Line Health serves patients at hospitals and health centers throughout the western suburbs of Philadelphia. To schedule an appointment with a specialist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.