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An Active Approach to Pregnancy

Kathryn Wiese walks briskly through a trail surrounded by blowing prairie grasses.

Just two weeks from her due date for her third pregnancy, this active mom knows she feels better when she’s fit.

“When I don’t get out there and exercise, I feel off for the rest of the day,” she says, her feet moving quickly. “It makes such a difference to me if I can keep it up.”

Feeling good

The 32-year-old Flandreau mother has two children at home, ages four and two. In all three of her pregnancies she’s made a few adjustments due to changing body size and energy level, but keeping up with her usual exercise routine has had benefits for her health and outlook on life.

“I had a c-section for one delivery, but I came back remarkably well,” said Kathryn. “I wasn’t nearly as sore because my muscles were in good shape. Both of my pregnancies were very trouble-free.”

Exercise is an incredibly important part of a healthy pregnancy, says Terry Engelmann, Sanford Certified Nurse Midwife. Her patients who make regular activity part of their daily routine tend to have easier pregnancies and labor.

“Our bodies function better when we exercise, whether we’re pregnant or not,” Engelmann said. “Our mood is better and when labor starts, our body is calm and ready to give birth.”

At least 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day, five days a week, is recommended, she said. Stretching and cardiovascular exercise improves posture, relieves back pain and other discomforts related to pregnancy and prepares an expectant mom for the challenges of childbirth.

A way to get ready

“Labor is not a passive experience,” said the certified nurse midwife. “The more a woman is able to get up and move around, the more the baby is able to help with the birthing.”

If a pregnant woman hasn’t been used to exercising, it is not too late to get started, Engelmann said. She recommends gradually adding activity, making it a goal to walk a half an hour a day. Swimming can also be a great starter activity, since the water keeps a pregnant woman’s body cool and buoyant.

If an expectant mom regularly exercises, she should be able to maintain what she has done in the past, with a few modifications, the certified nurse midwife said. It’s best to keep the heartbeat no higher than 140 beats a minute while running, doing yoga, Pilates or other low-impact activities.

“A general rule is that if you’re able to talk while doing it, you’re keeping your heart rate at the right level,” Engelmann said.

Only a few activities are off-limits, such as exercises that require lying on your back (after the first four months) and contact sports that put you at risk for injury to the abdomen. She also recommends you refrain from sports that have a high risk for fall including water skiing, snow skiing or any extreme sports. Also avoid amusement park rides and scuba diving.

Pregnant women should also pay close attention to hydration, making sure they drink enough water before, during and after exercise. And they may need to eat a small snack or drink juice 15 to 30 minutes before they exercise, just to maintain proper blood sugar levels.

Part of the routine

Kathryn, one of Engelmann’s patients, said she checked with her healthcare provider before starting anything new. Walking, stretching, Pilates and Zumba (a Latin dance exercise program) have all been part of her routine and continued throughout pregnancy.

“I wanted to try hot yoga, but that was out,” she says, as she stretches to reach her toes.

The pregnant mom, who studied physical education and health in college, says she’s glad to be a good example to her children of a healthy lifestyle. And her exercise will help her keep up with the kids before and after her third child is born.

“I may be tired when I first wake up, but getting up and moving keeps me from being tired all day,” she says. “With three young children I’ll need all the energy I can get.”

Posted Date: June 2012