What Your Obgyn Wants You to Know About Exercise

 As a board certified OB-GYN I have noticed more discussion taking place around exercising and pregnancy and below are my recommendations for women who are pregnant. 

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) offers a FAQS page on Exercise During Pregnancy that is a great reference for women and I highly recommend reading! 

During pregnancy, the top goal of exercising is to maintain the woman's cardiovascular and muscle health.  Being inactive for 9 months is bad for anyone.  Also, there is some emerging data that obesity breeds obesity, meaning that women who are overweight are more likely to have overweight children.  Exercise is of course one key in helping to prevent the obesity epidemic we have in this country.

When my patients ask about exercising during pregnancy, I typically advise them that they can continue to do any activity  they like, just keeping in mind safety- no contact sports, no extreme sports. I usually encourage women to maintain their level of fitness, but not to significantly increase their intensity during pregnancy. For example- I wouldn't encourage a person who is a couch potato to start training for a marathon. Many myths say women shouldn't lift anything or bend over during pregnancy, but I don’t believe there is any reason to believe that these things would cause harm to the pregnancy itself.  There is, however, a higher risk of the women hurting herself.   This is because pregnancy hormones can increase laxity of the ligaments, raising injury risk, especially with all the postural changes of pregnancy.  If you have a high risk pregnancy this advice does not apply and you should speak to your individual medical care professional about exercise.

After the baby is born and once cleared for exercise in the first 2-6 weeks, as a patient becomes more mobile, I encourage women to move.  I think there is a tendency for people to encourage bed-rest during recovery from both vaginal deliveries and c-sections.  Simple things like going for a walk are great for both preventing too much de-conditioning as you recover from delivery, and I think really helps mentally and  emotionally.  Walking is also something women can do with their babies, so finding time to do this does not require childcare.

After that time frame, I believe women can begin light aerobic activities and/ or light strength training, gradually working into their normal workout routine.  I don't think there is a true time frame for any of this- I generally encourage a women to listen to her body and if she feels overly sore or tired then she should back off the intensity and then try again in a few days to ease back into things.  One thing that women are always concerned about is causing their c-section to not heal.  This is highly unlikely. They will be more sore if they over do things, but their incisions should not fall apart.

While pregnant and in the postpartum time frame, ACOG recommends that if at any point you have worsening symptoms or you experience anything on the list below you should stop exercising and reach out to your medical professional.  

·       Bleeding from the vagina 

·       Feeling dizzy or faint

·       Shortness of breath before starting exercise

·       Chest pain

·       Headache 

·       Muscle weakness

·       Calf pain or swelling

·       Regular, painful contractions of the uterus

·       Fluid leaking from the vagina

 

 

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The information contained in this article is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for the advice of your physician or licensed health care provider. You should consult your physician or licensed health care provider before engaging in any exercise activity described in this article to determine if it is right for your needs.