Exercise in Pregnancy: Bring Out Your Inner Serena - Kamm McKenzie OBGYN

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Exercise in Pregnancy: Bring Out Your Inner Serena

Previously written and published by Dr. Kalinowski

Some of you have read my older blogs detailing my love of beer, and it continues to grow!   In an attempt to keep my beer belly from expanding with my growing love of hops, I’ve been making an effort to be more active this summer.  Part of that has been playing tennis.  It’s a great workout, and I get a lot of satisfaction from beating my husband in a rally (though he is still WAY better than me). 

I followed the news with awe when I learned that a pregnant woman – Serena Williams—won the Australian Open, a major tennis tournament, this year. She had a positive home pregnancy test just before the tournament was about to begin, and was estimated to be 4 weeks at that time.  She was seen by a doctor who told her she was OK to play. She went on to win all of her matches in straight sets, and later learned she was 7-8 weeks along.

This lead me to wonder, how much exercise in pregnancy should you do, and when?  Here are some common questions I get asked:

Will I cause a miscarriage if I exercise vigorously in the first trimester? 

If you were in shape and exercising regularly before pregnancy, you can certainly continue. Your body is going through some changes, so don’t expect the same level of exercise tolerance you had prior to pregnancy even if you’re not showing yet.  Some changes to expect are becoming short of breath easier, joint pain, and decreased balance.  Several studies have shown that exercise does not increase the risk for miscarriage, low birth weight, or early delivery in women who are otherwise healthy. 

I wasn’t very active before I got pregnant, should I start a new routine? 

Yes, but start slowly.  Some suggested activities in which you can gradually increase your intensity are walking, stationary biking or elliptical, swimming, and yoga.  Benefits to exercising in pregnancy include easing back pain and constipation, keeping weight gain in normal range, and decreasing your risk for gestational diabetes and cesarean delivery.   Laboring and pushing is physically intense, and you’ll do better if you “train” for it!

Are there any exercises I should avoid?  

Activities where you are at risk for hitting your belly like contact sports, or any activity that could result in a fall such as downhill skiing or mountain bikingAlso hot yoga or hot pilates (especially at the very beginning of pregnancy)  since they can increase your internal body temperature which isn’t good for baby during the first 9-10 weeks, and it’s easier to get overheated when pregnant.

Is there an ideal amount of exercise in pregnancy? 

The American Medical Society for Sports Medicine recommends 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity activity.

Is there a heart rate limit? 

No! Older recommendations said to avoid going over 140 or 160, but this is not true.

I have a high risk pregnancy. What conditions might limit my activity level?

–          Severe heart or lung disease

–          Cerclage placement or a history of cervical incompetence

–          Preeclampsia or uncontrolled high blood pressure

Always check with your doctor if you’re not sure what’s safest in your case

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