Summary: Preparing for pregnancy is an important aspect of motherhood, and exercise plays a significant role in this. Exercising during preconception and pregnancy can help women maintain a healthy weight, reduce the risk of gestational diabetes, promote healthy fetal growth, and alleviate pregnancy symptoms. In this article, we will discuss various exercises and their benefits for preparing for pregnancy.
1. Cardiovascular or Aerobic Exercises
Cardiovascular or aerobic exercises, such as running, brisk walking, swimming, and cycling, are great for preconception and pregnancy. These exercises help to build endurance and increase stamina, both of which help during labor and delivery. Additionally, cardio exercises help maintain a healthy weight and regulate blood sugar levels, reducing the risk of gestational diabetes.
However, pregnant women should avoid high impact and contact sports, such as basketball and soccer, which may cause injury. Pregnant women should also avoid exercising in hot and humid conditions since overheating can cause dehydration.
About 30 minutes of moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise, such as walking or swimming, on most days of the week is excellent for preconception and pregnancy. In contrast, engaging in more intense workouts or longer sessions requires consultation with a healthcare provider.
2. Strength Training
Strength training involves using weights, resistance bands, or bodyweight to strengthen muscles. This type of workout helps to build muscle mass, strengthen bones, and improve balance, which is essential during pregnancy and childbirth.
Pregnant women should avoid heavy weights, especially those that cause strain or discomfort when using them. Instead, lighter weights with more repetitions (12-15) work well, with a focus on major muscle groups such as legs, arms, back, and core. Activating pelvic floor muscles through exercise can help reduce the risk of incontinence during pregnancy and postpartum.
Pregnant women should also avoid lying on their backs, especially after the first trimester, as it can cause a decrease in blood flow to the uterus and harm the baby. Finding alternatives, such as using a bench or ball, can help continue strength-building through gestation.
Yoga is a low-impact exercise that helps to increase flexibility, improve balance, and reduce stress levels. It increases body awareness and helps prepare the body for labor and delivery. Yoga also provides opportunities for bonding time with your baby and connecting with other moms-to-be.
Pregnant women should avoid overly strenuous yoga poses, such as those that put pressure on the abdomen, backbends, and inversions. Prenatal yoga classes tailor movements to accommodate pregnant women’s changing bodies and guide them through safe practices. The focus is on relaxing breathing techniques, gentle stretching, and poses that alleviate pregnancy symptoms.
Besides helping pregnant women prepare for childbirth, yoga can help new moms recover more quickly after giving birth. It also promotes better sleep quality.
4. Pelvic Floor Exercises
Pelvic floor exercises help strengthen the pelvic muscles, which support the bladder, uterus, and bowel. These muscles become weakened during pregnancy and childbirth, leading to incontinence and other issues postpartum.
Doing Kegels, the most popular type of pelvic floor exercises, involves contracting and relaxing the pelvic muscles repeatedly. Increasing reps and lengthening contractions over time can result in improved muscle tone. Pelvic floor exercises can occur anywhere and at any time, as they are quick and discreet.
Start doing these exercises well before trying to conceive and continue after childbirth to maintain strength in the pelvic region. Doing these exercises throughout pregnancy will help pregnant women prepare for labor, minimize complications during childbirth, and reduce the risk of complications during recovery.
5. Low-impact Exercises
Low-impact exercises such as hiking, cycling, swimming, and water aerobics are safe for preconception and pregnancy, especially for those who are less active or just starting an exercise routine. Such exercises help improve heart and lung function, strengthen muscles and bones; and reduce stress.
Pregnant women who experience physical discomfort or pain while exercising should check with a healthcare provider to determine the best way forward. As always, staying adequately hydrated, dressing for the conditions, frequently rest, and avoiding overexertion is vital when performing low-impact exercises.
It is necessary to maintain workout variety and monitor intensity levels regularly to avoid boredom and overtraining. Working out with others or joining an exercise class can help keep us motivated and provide opportunities for socializing with other moms-to-be.
For those who are planning on having a baby, prioritizing exercises that promote physical fitness, weight maintenance, and healthy heart function is crucial. Choosing suitable activities designed for pregnancy can help increase energy levels, improve overall physical and mental well-being, as well as lessen many common discomforts associated with pregnancy.
While a successful pregnancy involves more than merely physical health, making fitness a priority before and during pregnancy can provide numerous benefits and impact the baby’s growth and development positively. Identifying any physical concerns and getting approval from a qualified healthcare provider before starting the routine is paramount for one’s health, that of their baby, and for a smooth gestational journey.