A friend and I were recently talking about all the crazy comments and looks we get from others when we’re pregnant, especially at the gym. Given all the research that shows activity should be encouraged, even during pregnancy, you’d think we should get praise for continuing to pound on the elliptical machine, stretch out our kinks and yes, even strengthen our abs to prevent diastasis (the separation of the rectus abdominus muscles, the vertical muscles that run in front of the abdominal muscles. Working the transverse abdominal muscle – the “seat belt” that runs across the bottom of your abs, helps).
When we’re pregnant our bodies are different, changing every day. But that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re delicate flowers who need to rest and wait for the baby to arrive. In fact, it’s the opposite. In addition to the energy boost and typical benefits associated with exercise, there’s some evidence that certain exercises done during pregnancy may in fact help prepare the mom for labor and delivery. A recent study also found that regular aerobic exercise during pregnancy may lead to healthier birth weights. Even though my first daughter was born face up, I credit my daily walks and regular prenatal yoga, strength and swimming to help me through the rigors of childbirth (most of which I was able to withstand without pain medication) and deliver her without a c-section.
According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, most forms of exercise are safe during pregnancy. Activities such as walking, swimming, yoga and using cardiovascular machines at the gym are great for working muscles and keeping your heart and lungs strong. Any sport with a high risk of falling, such as skiing and bicycle riding, should be avoided, as well as contact sports (basketball, soccer, hockey) and scuba diving (due to increased water pressure). Also, after the first trimester, pregnant women should avoid any activity that involves lying flat on your back, since the added weight from the belly can compress the vena cava – the blood vessel that carries blood back to the heart.
With so many exercise options, I would hope to see more pregnant women at the gym. I suppose many are as guilty as I am, and as soon as I see the plus sign on the pregnancy stick, I think about all the prenatal yoga classes I should take or sequester myself to the pool. And while these activities are great – and I look forward to each one – I wish more expectant moms would join me on the elliptical machine or in the weight room. Let’s show people we’re not delicate flowers! Who’s with me??