Throughout my career as a healthcare provider and health coach specializing in wellness, most of my clients have been women.
One of the questions my clients frequently ask is if exercise is safe and important for women who are pregnant or planning to start a family.
My answer has always been the same: in my view, if you are otherwise a healthy woman who has no serious intrinsic risk factors for your pregnancy, exercise is not only recommended, it’s a requirement.
If you are overweight, obese, or have a personal or family history of gestational diabetes or preeclampsia, regular exercise before, during, and after your pregnancy may be also a requirement.
Exercise before and during a pregnancy is just as beneficial for the mother as it is for the growing baby. Women who regularly exercise before and during pregnancy are less likely to gain excessive weight and experience any serious adverse risks during their pregnancy, have deliveries that are successful, and require less medical intervention. The nice thing about maintaining your health before and during your pregnancy is that your baby tends also to experience better immediate and long-term health outcomes.
Previous recommendations regarding exercise and pregnancy indicate that women should be getting at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise on a daily basis. Currently in the U.S., health survey data suggests that approximately 23% of pregnant women meet these recommended levels of daily activity.
I can certainly attest to the fact that some women can be very reluctant to maintain their current level of activity or improve it while they are pregnant. However, experience and previous research findings indicate that regular activity consisting of cardiovascular exercises, stretching, yoga, and weight training are all effective in improving the health of the mother and baby.
What about the quality of life of women carrying a child in relation to exercise?
According to a new report, approximately 25% of pregnant women experience insomnia. But one study suggests that exercise can counteract this.
In this case, the effects of regular exercise were assessed in 183 pregnant women by looking at the amounts of exercise the women were involved in between weeks 10 and 20 in their pregnancy. What the researchers found is that the women who were getting moderate amounts of regular exercise got a better quality of sleep compared with women who did not regularly exercise.
The important takeaway message from this research is that regular exercise can affect the sleep quality that a woman will experience during her pregnancy. Poor-quality sleep and insomnia have been previously associated with poorer health outcomes in new mothers and their babies.
Regular exercise before, during, and after pregnancy is also associated with a shorter labor time, fewer surgical interventions, and a faster post-partum recovery.
More importantly, exercise can improve your physical and mental well-being, including mood disorder, depression, and anxiety.
My recommendation to any woman who is contemplating having a family is to begin to exercise before your pregnancy. This will reduce some potential risk factors and improve your health status. During your pregnancy, continue to exercise right up to the last month before your delivery date. After your baby is born, I recommend starting your exercise routine as soon as you can. You will be doing yourself and your new baby a big favor.
Sources for Today’s Article:
Brooks, M., “Pregnant Women Sleep Better With Moderate Exercise,” Medscape web site, June 9, 2014; http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/826400.
SLEEP 2014: 28th Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, Oral Presentation 0994, presented June 2, 2014.