If ever there was a good time to get serious about regularly exercising, it's pregnancy! Exercise during pregnancy decreases your chances of preeclampsia, builds endurance for labor and delivery, and allows for a quicker postpartum recovery. In addition, exercise also helps regulate your blood sugar levels and can be as effective as medication in treating gestational diabetes. For me, exercise was an important way to cope with the discomfort and pain of pregnancy at a time when I wanted to avoid taking pain relief medications.
During my first pregnancy, I went to the gym for cardio, stretching, and weights every weekday.With my second and third pregnancies, I found that the only way I would exercise regularly was to figure out how to do it with my kids around, so I invested in baby carriers and strollers to use while walking and some good exercise DVDs. My favorite prenatal exercise DVDs are Shiva Rea's prenatal yoga and Erin O'Brien's Prenatal Fitness Fix. These two videos are accessible to yoga/exercise-novices and require no special equipment. (I also like Rea's and O'Brien's postnatal DVDs.)
Yoga may be an especially good choice during pregnancy. According to Dr. Alan Greene, recent studies have shown that prenatal yoga improves the outcomes for both low-risk and high-risk pregnancies. In a study of women with low-risk pregnancies, an hour daily of yoga (as compared to an hour daily of walking) resulted in reduced risk of both hypertension and preterm labor and a greater chance of having a baby with an ideal birth weight. Women with higher-risk pregnancies who did yoga daily (compared to walking) were more likely to have babies with normal birth weights. Yoga is also a great way to focus on your breathing, learn to be "in the moment," and practice relaxation -- all excellent preparation for labor.
During my third (most recent) pregnancy I experienced some excruciating pain in my hips and legs during my second trimester. Sometimes by the end of the day the pain was so bad that I could barely fall asleep while lying in bed. However, after a couple of weeks of terrible pain, I found a non-medicinal way to keep the pain at bay:
- I never sat for longer than 15 minutes at once. I put my computer on an upper shelf of a bookshelf and stood while using my computer. I tried to sit only while eating meals with my kids.
- I went for a walk in the morning. I put my kids in the double stroller I bought on Craig's List, and went for a spin around the neighborhood almost every day. In addition to providing some cardiovascular exercise, walking outside in the sunshine while breathing fresh air improved my mental health. When the weather was poopy, sometimes we had a dance party instead.
- I did my prenatal yoga DVD. Yoga was more important than walking in terms of reducing the pain.
It was hard to do these things each day with two little ones, but I found that pain was a very effective motivator.
For more tips on how to have a healthy pregnancy, visit Healthy Child Healthy World.
How do you stay active while pregnant?
What are your tips for coping with the discomforts of pregnancy?