Is prenatal exercise an oxymoron? It certainly used to be. Not long ago, a pregnant woman was considered to be in a "delicate condition" that required her to put up her swollen feet and confine her movements to knitting booties. Now we know that swelling, back pain, and a host of other pregnancy-related aches can be reduced by getting up and putting those feet in action!
For most women, regular exercise during pregnancy is a healthy choice for both mother and baby. In fact, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) now encourages pregnant women to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day.
Why exercise if you're just going to grow a big tummy anyway? For starters, expectant women who maintain a consistent exercise program gain less weight than their sedentary counterparts and shed their pregnancy weight faster after delivery. They feel better too. According to Dr. Barbara S. Apgar, MD, who runs a family practice in Ann Arbor, Michigan, "In a study tracking exercise throughout pregnancy, women who exercised in the three months before pregnancy felt better during the first trimester than those who did not exercise. Exercise in the first and second trimester was correlated with feeling better in the third trimester."
In addition to looking good and feeling fine, keeping in shape can equate to nine months of healthy check-ups. Dr. Bennett Spetalnick, MD, assistant professor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center says that prenatal exercise, "generally lessens the risk of pregnancy complications. Less weight gain means less risk of gestational diabetes, hypertension, and preeclampsia."
A 1990 study showed that women who exercised during pregnancy had a 30 percent shorter labor and fewer obstetric interventions such as forceps and C-sections. Donna Richman, fitness instructor, YMCA Wellness Coordinator, and mother of four (including a set of twins) speaks from experience, "It's not called labor for nothing. If you are in good shape, you are prepared to do the work necessary to bring that baby into the world."