by Dr. Lauren Cortjens
I hear it all the time: “I quit exercising when I found out I was pregnant.” Or “Now that I am pregnant I should cut back on the amount I am exercising.” Moreover, I’ll hear it from the husband, the friend, the family or the mom of the mama-to-be. Look, I totally get it; you don’t want to do anything to jeopardize the awesomeness growing inside of you. I wouldn’t either. But I always ask the question of moms-to-be, “if you were doing it before without any serious medical conditions, then what makes you think it will do any harm now that you are pregnant?” The answer is always silence…followed by a shoulder shrug…and then the affable, “I don’t know?”
So why did you quit or cut back on something that is so good for you and your baby? After all, odds are that it helped you get pregnant and kept you healthy until you found out about that little being inside your belly. What do you think you can gain by having your husband do everything for you (He won’t anyways… just saying), and will you still have that amazing natural birth you dream about? I’m here to tell you that you shouldn’t quit. Don’t put your health or the baby’s on the back burner just because you got pregnant. Study after study will tout the benefits of exercising during gestation.
Here is the caveat: don’t think that you are an invincible demi-god and can do anything you want. There are some guidelines to exercising while pregnant. These will become apparent anyways the bigger your belly gets and the more you feel like a literal whale walking around. Think of it as self-limitations due to that baby needing more energy and space to grow. For example, there will come a time when you can’t even bend down to tie your shoes without taking a super deep breath first, like you do before maxing out a squat and then coming up for air after one loop of the shoelaces, and feeling like you just did an all-out 200m sprint… Then you’ll know why.
Benefits of exercise in pregnancy:
- Improves circulation
- Decreases the odds of constipation or hemorrhoids
- Decreases leg cramps
- Lessens the tendency for back pain
- Helps optimally position the baby in utero
- Aids in preparation for child birth and makes for easier birth
- Better sleep
- Better mood
- Quicker return to pre-pregnancy activity level and weight
Guidelines for Exercise During Pregnancy:
- Always check with your doctor first and always attend your appointments to make sure that you and the baby are doing just fine. Odds are you will be doing awesome. (Side note… a huge plus to all this is having your doctor tell you how amazing you are! Score some much needed points for Mama!!!)
- If you experience bleeding or severe cramping, stop immediately and contact your healthcare provider. Not WebMD, Google, Wikipedia, or your favorite mommy blog. Seriously, please ask your healthcare professional. Thanks in advance.
- Heart rate guidelines are a thing of the past! If you can exercise and still carry on a conversation, then you are good. Just be careful not to get too overheated. (Internal temperature of 101 degrees F)
- Don’t start anything new that you haven’t already been doing. Let’s not take up judo or MMA classes.
- If you feel like you need to slow down or modify your activity, don’t push it just to get the workout in. Your body knows what it’s doing and gives you cues for a reason. If you have a coach, they should help you modify while still getting the desired simulation for the workout.
Just to recap, ladies go ahead and keep hitting your workout, run or swim!! Your baby and your significant other will thank you. You’ll be less likely to bite their head off with those awesome prenatal mood swings if you can re-direct that energy to something more productive. You are growing a human being inside! How amazing is that?!
Dr. Lauren Cortjens is a practicing sports chiropractor in Johns Creek at 1st Choice Sports Rehab and a CrossFit level one trainer. She is also an avid ultra runner and CrossFitter. During her most recent pregnancy, she was unable to run due to increased pain, so she modified her cardio activity (rowing, walking, Assault Bike, etc.) and continued to CrossFit 5 times a week. She was in the gym the afternoon before having her baby. She had an amazing birth of a baby boy who is healthy and happy. During her entire pregnancy, she was under the care and direction of her own doctor and chiropractor.