Research shows that exercise, and even vigorous training, are safe for you throughout pregnancy. So go ahead, exhale.
Not only is a fitness practice safe, but also it will improve your health during and after pregnancy. Even better, research shows that your fitness routine or training is both safe and healthy for your growing baby. Here’s your next one-liner comeback for the doubters: “Fit mama, fit baby.” Let those words help guide your 40 weeks, not to mention the postpartum family life you’re going to build.
The research on the effects of exercise on fetal development has kept pace with studies of the impact of exercise on women’s bodies during pregnancy, and results show that your activity brings benefit to the baby in utero. Babies of women who were active during pregnancy tend to be leaner at birth and exhibit somewhat better neurobehavioral maturation. These babies also have lower rates of long-term weight issues at age 5 as well as slightly higher brain function during childhood.
From early pregnancy through the third trimester, a fetus can tolerate your exercise very well because a woman’s body adapts to pregnancy in a way that regulates the impact of her activity on the growing baby. For instance, your body has an improved ability to regulate your core body temperature by cooling itself through sweat and heat dispensation from your skin. Similarly, fetal heart rate can increase when you exercise, but it returns to normal after you finish working out. This and other fetal responses to your activity are temporary and have no permanent effects on the baby’s development. Regular and sustained workouts can increase the placenta’s volume in early and mid-pregnancy but have no adverse effects on any pregnancy outcomes.
What about intensity? Well, maintaining a fantastically sweaty and vigorous level of exercise does not carry any negative health consequences for your growing baby, either, as long as that level of exercise is familiar to you and your body. There are no significant differences in the fetal heart rate (FHR), Doppler health, birth weight, and Apgar scores among babies of vigorous versus moderate exercisers.
The upshot is that training is good for your pregnancy health, and it actually benefits your baby as well. The base you’re building for a fit pregnancy is achieved by the concept of wellness: doing what feels good to the body for the sake of mom-baby health. It’s safe and healthy to train and work out, but scale it back if you experience any of the adverse symptoms listed earlier or if you feel depleted and stressed by it to the point that it fails to enhance your general wellness. As athletes, we feel empowered by our agency over our bodies in the world, and pregnancy is no time to lose that self-possession.
Fit & Healthy Pregnancy is a friendly, comprehensive guide to exercising during pregnancy from athlete-moms Kristina Pinto and Rachel Kramer, MD.
Find Fit and Healthy Pregnancy in your local bookstore or online and learn safe ways to exercise for two!
- Amazon – Fit & Healthy Pregnancy
- Barnes & Noble – Fit & Healthy Pregnancy
- Your local independent bookseller – Fit & Healthy Pregnancy
- Chapters/Indigo – Fit & Healthy Pregnancy
Please consult your doctor before embarking on an exercise program during pregnancy.