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Exercise and Pregnancy – 70 Things Every Pregnant and Non-Pregnant Woman Should Know

The following are 70 things every pregnant and non-pregnant woman should know about exercise and pregnancy in general:

1. Myths surrounding exercise and pregnancy:

Exercise during pregnancy was thought to cause miscarriage, hormonal imbalance, over-stressing of the joints, redirecting blood flow away from the fetus, to the muscle, overheating the fetus, uterine bleeding, displacement or rupture of the placenta, entangled umbilical cord, breech position, increase risk of c-section, high blood pressure, abnormal genes in the baby, growth retardation, meconium-stained amniotic fluid, premature labor, prolonged labor, fetal distress, still birth, low birth weight, low apgar scores, difficulties for the baby after birth, and difficult maternal recovery after birth.

2. How the myths came and went:

Many of the myths, about the effects of prenatal exercise, were perpetuated by both the fitness and medical community out of fear and ignorance. Such myths have been dis-proven by modern medical research.

3. How exercise affects the woman’s fetus:

Currently, all medical studies point to positive effects on the fetus as a result of exercising throughout the pregnancy. There are less complications during pregnancy when exercising. The woman’s fetus becomes tougher, leaner, and more able to adapt and handle stress.

4. Roles of pregnancy hormones:

The following are the six hormones that are produced during pregnancy and their roles: Relaxin, is a hormone that relaxes and softens the cartilage and ligaments that support the joints to prepare the body for an easy pregnancy; Androgen, is a hormone produced in men, and helps to give the pregnant woman more strength, energy, and sex drive; Progesterone is a hormone that supports the growth of the fetus, uterus, breast, and even speeds up the metabolism. Progesterone also is responsible for fat accumulation to cushion the uterus and storage during the first and second trimester; Estrogen is a hormone that works with progesterone to maintain the pregnancy. In pregnancy, estrogen makes the uterus more elastic, softens the joints, retains fluid, and increases the size of the breast; hCG, human chorionic gonadotropin, is a hormone produced by the placenta to stimulate the ovaries to produce estrogen and progesterone; Insulin, a hormone that permits glucose to enter the muscle cells, can cause hypo or hyperglycemia in a pregnant woman if blood sugar levels are not maintained with a proper diet.

5. Diastasis Recti:

Diastasis recti (abdominal separation) occurs when the abdominal muscles are stretched out, as they are in pregnancy. Diastasis is the space in the mid abdominal region. Such separation generally occurs in the second or third trimester and is painless.

6. Dizziness and faintness in pregnant women:

When a pregnant woman feels dizzy or faint, it is usually due to poor circulation. This poor circulation may be caused by blood pooled into the legs from lying in the supine position or standing for an extended period of time.

7. Dizziness alleviation:

Use the legs to help pump blood around by moving around or walking. Remember to eat often and do not go more than four hours without having something to eat.

8. Primary reasons not to exercise during pregnancy:

The ACOG recommends that women who are pregnant, should not exercise if certain conditions or risk factors are present. Such factors include cardiac, vascular, pulmonary, and/or thyroid diseases. Other contradictions include diabetes, seizure disorder, obesity, hypertension, anemia, and problems with the back, joints, and/or muscles.

9. Pregnancy induced hypertension:

A woman who suffers from pregnancy induced hypertension is in a high-risk pregnancy and should not take part in a regular exercise program. Some light exercises and slow-moderate walks may be performed.

10. Best method for a pregnant woman to measure exercise intensity:

Due to the fact that the resting heart rate of a pregnant woman can rise up to twenty beats per minute over normal levels, measuring exercise intensity with heart rates will simply not work. The rate of perceived exertion should be used to measure exercise intensity because it involves listening to one’s body and is easy to use.

11. Ten workout guidelines for beginners:

  1. Start slowly and gradually increase exercise intensity.
  2. Consult with a doctor, and get written permission before beginning any exercise program.
  3. After each workout, cool down and stretch slowly and carefully.
  4. Listen to your body and change the program as you see fit.
  5. Move your legs and walk around between exercises.
  6. Do not exercise in hot or humid weather.
  7. Practice proper posture, alignment, and muscle control.
  8. Avoid interval training.
  9. Get a complete physical before you start any exercise program.
  10. Do not exercise at altitudes of 8,000 ft or higher.

12. Benefits of strength training during pregnancy:

Strength training will improve muscle tone and strength. The added strength can aid in carrying the added weight of pregnancy, improve stability, balance, energy, sense of well-being and self-esteem. The threshold for pain will also be improved.

13. Popular sports and activities pregnant women should avoid:

Gymnastics, roller skating, snowboarding, softball, soccer, and volleyball.

14. Three basic exercises to include in an exercise program:

Kegels, Abdominal Pulses, and Pelvic Tilts.

15. How to do Kegels, Abdominal Pulses, and Pelvic Tilts:

Kegels- Visualize the pelvic floor muscles, starting at the anus. Squeeze the muscles around the anus tightly. After a few times, focus on the sphincters around the opening of the vagina. Squeeze them tightly and then relax. Then squeeze and pull the perineum in and up, holding as long as possible before relaxing. Remember to exhale as you squeeze and pull up, and inhale as you release.

Abdominal Pulse– Begin by sitting on the buttocks with the legs crossed up against your wall or bed. Inhale and let your lungs expand with air. Relax the abdominal muscles. Exhale and contract the abdominal muscles tightly by pulling them in. Repeat for ten to fifty repetitions for two sets.

Pelvic Tilts– This exercise can be performed supine, standing, seated, side lying, on all fours, or on a ball. Begin by sitting on the ball and walking forward, rolling with it until the shoulders and head are resting on top of the ball. Pull the abdominal muscles in and contract your glutes as you tilt your pelvis forward to round the lower back and exhale. Perform ten repetitions for two sets.

16. Three exercises to help pregnant women stretch the lower back:

Pelvic Tilt, Cat Stretch, Opposite Arm and Leg Raise.

17. Physical and psychological effect of confined bed rest:

After just twenty-one days of total bed rest, the body deconditions by twenty-five percent. Psychological effects include depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and a negative mentality.

18. Not confined to bed rest, but still considered high risk:

Chronic hypertension, thyroid, cardiac, vascular, or lung disease, fetus in the breech position, anemic, and a mother carrying twins.

19. How posture, stretching, relaxation, breathing, and yoga are beneficial:

Practicing good posture will decrease the strain on the musculoskeletal system. Yoga and stretching lengthen the muscles, improve posture, and aid in relaxation. Breathing techniques help to expand lung capacity, helping to offset the pressure of the growing uterus on the lungs.

20. Advice for women experiencing neck and shoulder pain:

Strengthen the upper back and neck; Stretch the chest; Stretch the neck forward, to the sides, and in half-circles from one shoulder to the other; Use a firm mattress; Wear a bra at night; Get neck and shoulder massages; Use hip mobility exercises; For severe pain, walk with crutches until pregnancy is over.

21. Five yoga positions a pregnant woman may want to avoid:

Avoid shoulder stands, down dog, back bends, plow pose, and seated forward bends.

22. Diaphragmatic breathing:

Sit comfortably in a chair while holding the belly button with both hands. Breath in and concentrate on slow inhalation, letting the chest and abdominal cavity fill with air. Expel the air out slowly, and feel the abdomen deflate.

23. Possible result of women having very low body fat before and/or during pregnancy:

If a woman has very low body fat before and/or during pregnancy, her estrogen production may decrease, which could cause infertility or even miscarriage. If fat is extremely limited, the mother will use protein sources for energy and that can inhibit the proper development of the baby.

24. Weight gain distribution of 24-28 pounds in a pregnant woman:

Forty percent of the weight gain is accounted for by the fetus, and the other sixty percent is from maternal change. Most of the weight that is gained is extra water. Much of the necessary maternal fat gain is deposited internally and externally in the pelvic and abdominal region during the first trimester. The baby will accumulate its own fat and fat cells during the last ten weeks of pregnancy.

25. Morning sickness:

Morning sickness is a physical reaction to the hormonal influx and other changes your body is experiencing. This may increase estrogen levels and, in turn, increase sensitivity to certain smells which may cause nausea. A high intake of complex carbohydrates and protein can help decrease nausea. Eating smaller meals more often will also help and vitamin B6 has been shown to alleviate morning sickness.

26. Why a pregnant woman should avoid hair coloring and chemicals:

It is important that pregnant women do not use hair coloring and other chemicals because they can be toxic to the unborn baby. Do not inhale or let chemicals touch the skin.

27. Suggested servings of water when pregnant:

A pregnant woman should drink at least 10 cups of water throughout the day because dehydration can increase body temperature, slow blood and nutrient flow to the baby, and cause premature labor.

28. Most important vitamin to stock up on before conceiving:

Folic acid is the most important vitamin to stock up on before conceiving. The body needs to have enough folate in storage before implantation of the fertilized egg in order to prevent spinal and brain deformations called neural tube effects.

29. Reconsidering consumption of milk as part of an everyday diet:

Milk, non-fat or full fat, it may exacerbate and/or contribute to a variety of problems, such as heart disease, cancer, arthritis, migraines/headaches, allergies, colds, asthma, ear infections, thyroid and metabolic problems, behavioral problems, skin problems, fluid retention, bloating, abdominal cramps, and osteoporosis.

30. Five benefits of exercising during pregnancy:

Exercise, during pregnancy, increases blood volume, heart chamber volumes, maximal cardiac output, blood vessel growth, the ability to dissipate heat, and the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the tissues.

31. Bone density, muscle tone and ligament integrity during pregnancy:

During pregnancy bone density is maintained and ligaments relax while changes in muscle function are unclear.

32. Several early pregnancy issues:

Several early pregnancy issues include miscarriage and congenital defects. Miscarriages are basically spontaneous abortions of the fetus and are common. Congenital defects are due to abnormal development of the placenta.

33. Steps to avoid miscarriage:

Stay hydrated, eat multiple meals throughout the day, and exercise regularly.

34. How exercise affects fertility:

Exercise has not been shown to decrease fertility in women, but actually slightly increases fertility.

35. Physiological effects of beginning an exercise program during pregnancy:

Starting a regular fitness program during pregnancy increases birth weight unless the volume of exercise is very high. Starting exercise in the second month reduces birth weight and newborn fat mass, but only if exercise intensity and frequency are very high.

36. Regular exercise and premature birth:

Continuing a regular, vigorous exercise throughout pregnancy does not increase the incidence of either membrane rupture or premature birth.

37. Active pregnant women vs sedentary:

Women who exercise tend to be leaner both during and after the pregnancy and recover faster than sedentary women.

38. Can women continue exercise throughout pregnancy:

Yes, women can continue to exercise throughout their pregnancy and in fact should, but if exercise is suddenly stopped mid or later in pregnancy the baby could become “fatter” than normal babies. This should not happen if regular exercise is continued for the entire pregnancy.

39. Psychological benefits of exercise for pregnant women:

Pregnant women who exercise regularly tend to maintain a positive attitude about themselves, their pregnancy, and their soon to be labor and delivery.

40. Positive points to implement:

Remember that you will come out of your pregnancy leaner than most sedentary women if you continue to regularly exercise throughout the pregnancy. Not only that, but your baby will be stronger, leaner, and more able to adapt to its surroundings if regular exercise is continued throughout pregnancy.

41. Four big contra-indications to exercise:

The big four contra-indications to exercise are injury, disease, pain, and bleeding.

42. Spontaneous patterns of exercise performance after birth:

There were many active women who resumed exercising within the two weeks following the birth of their child. Many of these active women, within the first year after birth, returned to their formal pre-pregnancy fat levels and even exceeded pre-pregnancy exercise performance levels. It is okay to exercise after pregnancy if it does not hurt or make the women heavily bleed.

43. Key points for exercise during the first six weeks after birth:

The woman should exercise 3 or more times a week; all exercises should feel good and enhance her sense of well-being; adequate rest is essential.

44. Key rules for exercise after pregnancy:

Be sure that the amount of exercise is enough, but not too much; be sure that the exercises feel good; pay attention to the little things; do not chart your performance progress; do not ignore fatigue or pain.

45. Three “absolute contra-indications” to exercise after pregnancy:

Bright red bleeding that last for several hours. If it hurts anywhere then stop, and breast infection or abscess.

46. Instructions and safety concerns for both the mother and baby:

Focus on monitoring performance, well-being, and the growth and development of the baby. One concern is milk production and can be used as an index for monitoring the growth and development of the baby
47. How exercise has been proven to be a stress reliever:

Just taking walks on most days of the week can elevate your mood and prepare your body for the changes that occur in pregnancy. Other aerobic activities also relieve stress.

48. Stability:

Stability is the capacity of the body to maintain or return to a state of equilibrium. Exercising before, during, and after pregnancy helps to improve stability.

49. “Move from the core”

The phrase “move from the core” refers to when the deep muscles of the spine and the abdominal muscles that support the spine react quickly to the changes in movement which respond first in keeping the spine aligned.

50. Why the kegel exercise is important for the expecting mother:

Kegel exercises help to strengthen the pelvic muscles, which in return help to prevent urine leakage during and after pregnancy, as well as restoring muscle tone after delivery. If a pregnant woman should avoid strengthening the pelvic floor muscles, she may experience bowel and bladder incontinence problems later in life. It is for the above reasons that kegel exercises are the most important exercises a pregnant woman can ever do.

51. Why blood pooling is dangerous and what can be done:

Blood pooling is dangerous, because it shifts blood flow away from the internal organs and puts additional stress on the heart, causing less oxygen to travel to the brain and the fetus. This could cause pregnant women to feel faint or even pass out. To avoid blood pooling, it is important that the legs are in motion when not exercising to increasing blood flow back up to the heart. An effective cool-down helps to reestablish circulation and prevent blood pooling.

52. Four common changes during early pregnancy:

1. The pregnancy hormones tend to slow the digestive system.

2. The pressure from the enlarged uterus relaxes the pelvic floor muscles.

3. Emotions are affected by the new pregnancy hormones.

4. The growing uterus puts pressure on the diaphragm.

53. How a pregnant woman can reduce the incidence of nausea:

The incidence of nausea can be reduced by doing the following: Eating small, frequent meals throughout the day which will help prevent over-distending of the stomach while providing the much-needed nutrients; take prenatal vitamins with evening meal so, if they upset your stomach, it is while you sleep; keep crackers by the bedside to snack on in the morning; eat calcium-rich foods; suck on ice cubes; sniff or suck on lemons; wear a sea-band; place three fingers on your right hand on the inner aspect of your left wrist with the ring finger of the right hand directly over the wrist and hold firmly.

54. Reducing constipation during pregnancy:

Constipation and eventually hemorrhoids are caused by the increase in progesterone which slows the digestive tract. Drinking eight to ten glasses of water a day along with eating high fiber foods should help relieve constipation. Exercising also helps to relieve constipation.

55. Steps to take to reduce leg cramps during pregnancy:

The primary cause of leg cramps in pregnant women is slowed circulation, calcium deficiency, and consuming too many carbohydrate drinks. For leg cramps at night, place a pillow between the knees to help improve circulation. For calcium deficiency caused cramps, be sure to consume adequate amounts of calcium in your diet or take a calcium supplement. Vitamin C may also help to prevent leg cramps. If you feel cramping, flex the foot of the affected leg so the toes point toward the head. If cramping persist or is hot to touch then seek medical advice.

56. Three tips to help reduce water retention during pregnancy:

1. Avoid ingesting large amounts of sodium.

2. Perform ankle circles throughout the day.

3. Whenever possible prop feet up on a chair or stool.

57. Pregnancy gingivitis and how it can be avoided:

Pregnancy gingivitis is when the gums swell and bleed which may lead to infection and discomfort. To prevent gingivitis brush your teeth at least twice a day with a soft nylon brush. It is ideal to brush after every meal and before bed. See your dentist at least twice during the pregnancy for checkup and cleaning.

58. Importance of diaphragmatic breathing for the expecting mother:

Diaphragmatic breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which calms the body. The more relaxed the women is during labor and delivery, the less discomfort she will experience.

59. Nostril breathing and its benefit:

Nostril breathing is the process of breathing through one nostril for up to five cycles at a time to help aerate the sinuses and bring balance into both sides of the nose.

60. Optimal range of weight gain during pregnancy:

The general guidelines recommend that a pregnant woman gains 25 to 35 pounds during pregnancy. The preferred scenario is that you gain about 4 to 6 pounds the first trimester, 11 to 15 pounds the second trimester, and 11 to 15 pounds the third trimester.

61. Average amount of Calories a healthy pregnant woman should consume:

The average amount of calories a pregnant woman should consume is around 1800 Calories. Active women who exercise an hour or more a day should consume 2400 Calories. Calorie intake should be increased by an additional 350-450 calories per day during the second and third trimester.

62. Five tips for avoiding excessive weight gain during pregnancy:

1. Eat an adequate breakfast. Skipping meals will attribute to eating in excess amounts later in the day and could possibly make you feel light head mid morning.

2. Drink at least eight glasses of water each day because dehydration can be interpreted as hunger causing the ingestion of unnecessary Calories.

3. Choose foods that are high in fiber, low in fat, and low in sugar because fatty foods can make you feel tired, and sugary foods can spike insulin.

4. Plan meals to balance your diet ahead of time with the essential nutrients you need.

5. Avoid eating with people who want you to overeat. Such individuals can cause you to eat an additional 750 extra calories for social reasons alone.

63. Some foods to avoid during pregnancy:

Do not eat raw seafood that is not frozen and sealed tightly with an “A” rating, soft cheeses, and free range eggs.

64. Benefits of weight-bearing exercise for the expecting mother:

Improved stamina; more energy; enhanced ability to handle heat stress; improved musculoskeletal function; increased metabolic capacity; increased insulin sensitivity; decreased maternal discomforts; easier labor and delivery; positive attitude and outlook of the pregnancy.

65. How exercise improves the mothers ability to handle heat stress:

Exercising regularly helps to increase blood flow to the skin which in turn helps dissipate heat. Exercise also decreases the core temperature threshold for perspiring.

66. How exercise can improve labor and delivery:

Women who continue a regular weight-bearing exercise program throughout their pregnancy have shown a marked decrease in the need for pain relief during labor, in the incidence of maternal exhaustion, and in the need for artificially rupturing the membranes to progress the labor. Women who follow a weight-bearing exercise routine throughout their entire pregnancies also have a lower incidence of induced labors, episiotomies, abnormal fetal heart rates, and the need for operative interventions.

67. Symptoms of over-training:

Some symptoms of over-training include fatigue, pain, loss of motivation, increased susceptibility of injury, and common infections. Over-training can negatively affect the baby by limiting its oxygen supply and nutrients.

68. Avoid pressure on the Inferior Vena Cava during the second trimester:

It is important to avoid pressure of the Inferior Vena Cava because it interferes with blood flow getting to the heart and lungs and results in less blood going to the aorta to the baby. When exercising on your back, putting pressure on the Vena Cava, you not only restrict blood flow to your muscles but also to your baby.

69. Healthy food plan for new mothers and benefit of exercise during first month after birth:

The daily diet of a new mother who is trying to lose her pregnancy fat should consume the following postpartum each day: 6 servings of whole grains; 2 servings of low-fat dairy; 2 servings of lean protein; 1 serving of nuts, legumes; at least 4 servings of vegetables; 2 servings of fruit; 2 servings of plant oils. The following should be consumed when lactating: 9 servings of whole; 3 servings of low-fat dairy; 2 servings of lean protein; 2 serving of nuts, legumes; at least 4 servings of vegetables; 3 servings of fruit; 2 servings of plant oils.

Exercise during the first month after delivery helps the mother recover postpartum, return to pre-pregnancy proportions, and increase energy.

70. Examples for developing a lifetime of fitness for the whole family:

  • Plan family fitness time at least twice a week.
  • Choose activities that allow everyone to participate in.
  • Follow good exercise principles, including warming up, cooling down, and stretching.
  • Include other family members.
  • Emphasize the importance of having fun.
  • Use physical activity as a reward, not food.
  • Dance with your family.
  • Provide space in your yard for sports.
  • Always use the stairs going down and up, if you and your family can tolerate it.
  • Keep fresh fruits and vegetables washed, cut up, and ready to eat for quick snacks.
  • Take a family fitness vacation such as skiing, canoeing, camping, or hiking.
  • Select fitness oriented gifts for birthdays and holidays.
Disclaimer: Always consult with your doctor before starting any exercise program.

Barton Waldon