A Program That Makes Sense For Your Pregnant Body

Do you want to stay fit during pregnancy? Here are some guidelines to help you devise a program that makes sense for your pregnant body, and information about warning signs and your body's limits.
Pregnancy and Postpartum
The guidelines listed below are based on the unique conditions that exist during pregnancy and the postpartum period. They outline general criteria for developing safe exercise programs.

1. Regular exercise (at least three times a week) is preferable to intermittent activity. Competitive activities should be discouraged.

2. Vigorous exercise should not be performed in hot, humid weather, or if you have a fever.

3. Ballistic movements (jerky, bouncy motions) should be avoided, examples would be high-impact aerobics, jumping rope and certain calisthenics like the mule kick or high jumper. Exercise should be done on a wooden floor or a tightly carpeted surface to reduce shock and provide a sure footing.

4. Deep flexion or extension of joints should be avoided because of ligament weakness. Activities that require jumping, jarring motions, or rapid changes in direction should be avoided because of joint instability.

5. Vigorous exercise should be preceded by a 5-minute period of muscle warm-up. This can be accomplished by slow walking or stationary cycling with low resistance.

6. Vigorous exercise should be followed by a period of gradually declining activity that includes gentle stationary stretching. Because ligament weakness increases the risk of joint injury, stretches should not be taken to the point of maximum resistance.

7. Heart rate should be measured at times of peak activity. Target heart rates and limits established in consultation between you and your healthcare provider should not be exceeded. (See table 1 for recommended postpartum target heart rate limits)

8. Care should be taken to rise gradually from the floor. Some form of activity involving the legs should be continued for a brief period following rising from the floor.

9. Liquids should be taken liberally before and after exercise to prevent dehydration. If necessary, activity should be interrupted to drink water.

10. Exercise programs should correspond with your pre-pregnancy fitness levels.

11. Activity should be stopped and your healthcare provider consulted if any unusual symptoms appear.

Fitness during Pregnancy
1. Maternal heart rate should not exceed 140 beats per minute.

2. Strenuous activity, when you are performing at the maximum heart rate, should not exceed 15 minutes in duration.

3. No exercise should be performed while lying on the back after the fourth month of pregnancy -- examples would be leg lifts, butterfly kicks, bicycles, and full sit-ups.

4. Exercises that have you bending her knees and bearing down should be avoided since they put undesirable strain on the rectum and cervix. Examples are squats, both calisthenic and weight-lifting, and the knee bender.

Limiting Exercise
There are conditions during pregnancy which may prevent you from exercising vigorously. You will be evaluated by your healthcare provider to determine if you has any of these conditions and what the impact is on any exercise program undertaken.

Some conditions which may limit exercise during pregnancy are:

  • High blood pressure
  • Anemia or blood disorders
  • Thyroid disease
  • Diabetes
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • History of premature labor
  • History of fetus not growing adequately
  • History of bleeding during present pregnancy
  • Breech presentation in the last trimester
  • Excessive obesity
  • Extreme underweight

Some conditions which will limit exercise during pregnancy are:

  • History of three or more spontaneous abortions (miscarriages)
  • Ruptured membranes
  • Premature labor
  • Diagnosed multiple gestation (twins, triplets...)
  • Incompetent cervix
  • Bleeding or diagnosis of placenta previa
  • Diagnosed heart disease

Warning signs and symptoms
The following signs and symptoms should signal you to stop exercising and contact your healthcare provider:

  • Pain
  • Bleeding
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Palpitations
  • Faintness
  • Back pain
  • Pubic pain
  • Difficulty walking

If you exhibit or experience any of these signs or symptoms, halt the activity, and seek a medical assessment of your condition.PregnancyAndBaby.com

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