Sports & Fitness

Benefits of Prenatal and Postnatal Exercise

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#Could I injure my baby?# #Am I exercising too soon after pregnancy?# #What exercises should I do, and how do I know if I#m doing them correctly?” When implemented correctly, prenatal (during pregnancy) and postnatal (after pregnancy) exercises benefit everyone involved with the pregnancy.

Both have physiological benefits, including improved blood circulation (which increases the amount of oxygen and nutrients going to the baby and mother), increased aerobic capacity (which sustains the body during the demands of labor and delivery), increased energy and more restful sleep.

Muscular benefits include an improvement in muscular strength and endurance which aids in delivery and a quicker recovery. With increased muscle tone, the joints and pelvic organs are better supported and balance is improved. Also, strengthening of the abdominal muscles and back improves posture and can prevent back pain and postural deviations. Stretching exercises improve range of motion and flexibility (important during delivery) and helps your body return to its normal size.

Mental and emotional benefits also accompany prenatal and postnatal exercise. These include reduced fatigue, anxiety and tension and the promotion of well-being and self-image. Try participating in group classes for social support and to network and build friendships with other pregnant women.

During pregnancy, the goal of exercise should not be to make large fitness gains or to lose weight, but rather to maintain the highest fitness level consistent with a woman#s physical condition during pregnancy. Safety is most important for the mother and baby. Following a fitness program regularly can help the mother#s body adjust to the stages of pregnancy and post-pregnancy while lessening the discomforts associated with pregnancy. When exercising, a pregnant woman needs constant supervision to ensure correct form and to handle any problems that may occur.

Exercising Guidelines During Pregnancy

Always consult your doctor before beginning an exercise program.

Exercise at a mild to moderate intensity and avoid exercise to the point of exhaustion.

Exercise at least three days a week unless directed otherwise by your doctor.

Exercise is safer and most beneficial when performed regularly.

Avoid any exercise that involves lying on your back or a sloping terrain after the first trimester because it can decrease blood flow to the uterus.

Avoid exercise in hot, humid environments, and stay well hydrated. Drink water during your workout and wear cool clothing.

Avoid exercise that can cause you to lose your balance, especially in the third trimester.

After you give birth, resume your pre-pregnancy routine gradually.

You need an additional 300 calories a day when exercising during pregnancy. Eat frequent, small, nutritious snacks.

Danger Signs During Exercise

Contact your doctor immediately or go to the nearest emergency room if you experience any of these symptoms.

Pain of any kind

Uterine contractions at 20 minute intervals

Vaginal bleeding, leaking of amniotic fluid

Dizziness, fainting

Shortness of breath

Palpitations, tachycardia (rapid heartbeat)

Persistent nausea or vomiting

Difficulty walking

Generalized edema

Decreased fetal activity

For more information, call the Wellness Studio, a part of the Gwinnett Health System, at 678-584-7404.