All you want to do is curl up on the couch all afternoon, right? Although you may think you're too tired for this reminder, here it is: Staying active during pregnancy does many good things for you. It gives you energy, helps keep your weight in check, reduces your risk of gestational diabetes, builds stamina for labor and delivery, and elevates your mood. However, to gain these benefits, you must exercise safely.
Before you start exercising, get your doctor's approval. Your doctor will probably give you a thumbs-up unless you have a high risk of premature labor or you've been diagnosed with heart disease, an incompetent cervix, placenta previa, or preeclampsia. If you are having bleeding during this pregnancy, your doctor may advise you to hold off on exercising. Some women who are carrying multiples are concerned about exercise, but exercise should be fine as long as the pregnancy is not considered high-risk.
If you are already an exerciser, stick with the fitness regimen you followed before you became pregnant. Even athletes and others who exercise vigorously can, in many cases, continue their activity during pregnancy, according to guidelines from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). As the months go by and your body gets larger, you may have to decrease your intensity level. Talk with your doctor about what makes sense for you.
If you haven't exercised recently, choose an activity that won't overtax your body, such as walking or swimming. Now is not the time to take up an extreme sport. Aim to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, most days of the week. If 30 minutes is too much, start with 10 minutes and gradually work up to 30 minutes or more. If you find it difficult to block off 30 minutes each day for exercise, schedule three 10-minute sessions throughout the day.
Avoid any activities that put you at high risk for injury, such as horseback riding or downhill skiing. Contact sports in which you may receive a blow to your abdomen, including ice hockey and soccer, are out. Finally, forgo scuba diving; it is not safe for the baby's circulatory system.
Use the "talk test" as a yardstick for how vigorously to exercise. Here's how it works: While you exercise, you should be able to talk without losing your breath. If you're not sure whether you're exercising too hard, try singing "Happy Birthday." If you can't make it all the way through, slow down. If you experience any alarming symptoms, such as shortness of breath, bleeding, light-headedness, or chest pain, call your doctor.
Originally published in You & Your Baby: Pregnancy.
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