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Planning for a Fit Pregnancy

If you are in the early stages of pregnancy-or thinking about getting pregnant-your life is probably consumed with planning for the big event: financial and job considerations, the baby's room and the delivery itself. But have you thought about planning your fitness level during pregnancy? Exercise during pregnancy can be one of the best things you can do for yourself during this time-but only with careful planning and consultation with your doctor.

"The benefits of regular exercise during pregnancy can be tremendous," says Carlton Pearse, MD, chief of Obstetrics/Gynecology at St. Luke's Hospital. "However, in order to reap these benefits, you should ideally start an exercise program before you are pregnant."

Dr. Pearse recommends that if you are already pregnant, talk to your physician about starting an exercise program as soon as possible. Many women wait to begin a fitness program until their last trimester when they start childbirth classes. Although some light exercise such as walking can be beneficial during this time, your body is undergoing many other physical and hormonal changes and beginning a program late in pregnancy can be difficult on your body. Besides, why not feel good throughout the entire nine months?

Some of the benefits of regular exercise during pregnancy include:
  • Helps avoid excess weight gain by burning calories
  • Strengthens important muscles that will help to ease labor
  • Reduces the aches of pregnancy including back pain and constipation
  • Increases circulation
  • Allows you to sleep better
  • Raises your energy level and decreases fatigue
  • Helps you feel better about yourself
Choose exercises that work the major muscle groups that pregnancy strains most-the abdominals, back and legs. Some good forms of exercise during pregnancy include: walking, water aerobics, light weight lifting, non-aerobic sports and yoga. If you exercise regularly before pregnancy and are in good health, your normal routine will be safe to continue during pregnancy as well. Many women jog and take step aerobics throughout their pregnancy.

Dr. Pearse recommends planning your fitness schedule with a few cautions in mind:
  • Always warm up and cool down
  • Do not get overheated
  • Focus on a regular pattern of exercise-ideally at least three times a week if not everyday-instead of exercising once in a while
  • Learn your target heart rate and keep it in that range
  • Do not participate in exercises where you might be hit or fall and those that involve jerky movements
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Listen to your body-Stop exercising if you feel light-headed, short-of-breath or experience any pain
  • Avoid exercise at high altitudes-it could deprive you and your baby of oxygen
  • ALWAYS talk to your doctor before participating in any physical activity during pregnancy and, if possible, discuss a fitness plan with your doctor while planning your pregnancy.
Learn more about fitness during pregnancy and join other mothers-to-be in St. Luke's Hospital's Mommies in Motion or Yoga classes, which are geared to help expectant mothers build strength, flexibility and overall health. For registration or information about these classes, call St. Luke's Special Delivery Suites at 314-205-6906.

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