An increasing amount of research is coming to the forefront showing the relationship between exercise and the health of expecting mothers and their baby. The benefits of increasing physical activity before and during pregnancy begin instantly and can play a significant role in your health for the rest of the mother’s life.
- Shorter labor and easier delivery: There have been some small studies that have shown that women who exercise regularly are 58% less likely to request pain medication. Regular exercisers are 75% less likely to need a forceps delivery and 4 times less likely to have a C-section. Also, women who trained regularly during their pregnancy have 2 hours less of labor on average.
Less weight gain and lower risk of gestational diabetes risk: Obviously weight gain is inevitable, but research has shown that women who regularly exercise during pregnancy average 7 less pounds of weight gain during pregnancy compared to those who do not exercise. An increase in blood sugar during pregnancy puts mothers at an exceedingly high risk for developing type II diabetes in the years to follow delivery AND raises the odds of delivering an overweight baby.
- Increased energy and decreased back pain: Water resistance exercise, yoga, Pilates, and pelvic tilts can offer relief of low back pain during pregnancy. Exercising during the 2nd and 3rd trimesters can be particularly helpful in both limiting back discomfort and increasing energy.
- You will deliver a baby with a healthier body weight: Babies who come out of the womb overweight and with excess fat are significantly more likely to become overweight adolescents and teenagers. On top of that, if their mother has gestational diabetes, they will be more prone to develop diabetes in their life.
- Improved cardiovascular function for mother and baby: Developing babies of prenatal exercisers have more efficient hearts in comparison to the children of mothers who do not exercise. Cardiac output increases by about 50% during the first trimester. This is an opportunity for the mother to improve cardiovascular fitness levels once cleared for exercise.
Decreased Risk of Premature birth: Preeclampsia is complication involving high blood pressure and excess protein in urine. About 5-8% of pregnant women develop this and it is the number 1 cause of premature birth. A safe exercise routine could help prevent this.
- Avoiding prenatal depression: 12-20% of women experience depression, which results in relationship issues, poor sleep, and possible marital problems after delivery. Getting into an exercise routine will significantly decrease the risk of prenatal depression.
- Increased intelligence in your child: Research has indicated that children whose mothers exercise during pregnancy have improved memory and higher scores on intelligence and language tests.
Improved Immune System: Walking and moderate exercise can cut in half your risk of catching an illness when pregnant.
Increasing physical fitness levels is not recommended for pregnant mothers. It should be seen as an opportunity to maintain the routine you are doing prior to pregnancy. Thus the importance of starting a physical fitness program prior to conceiving a child is important. Strengthening the lungs and heart will improve the stamina of the mother and improve the health of their fetus. Water resistance and strength training can help with decreasing stress on the joints and improve muscle strength. Yoga and Pilates are also highly recommended for strengthening the entire body, especially the core, and helping the body relax.