These are the top 5 questions I am asked when a woman finds out she’s pregnant. There are so many rumors out there when it comes to working out, running and strength training while pregnant. When I searched “Google” I literally felt as though I should wrap myself in bubble wrap and stay away from everyone and everything, but I didn’t. Here are the facts to the answers to the top 5 questions I get asked from pregnant moms.
1. Should I keep my heart rate below 130-140bpm?
When I first found out I was pregnant this is exactly what my doctor told me. I was terrified of a miscarriage and thought that if my heart rate went over 140bpm I could jeopardize my pregnancy. What I didn’t realize at that time was that she didn’t know my history or my fitness level. It is critical that you find a physician that you feel comfortable with and really knows your history.
You will want to gauge the level of your intensity by using the RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion) 15 point scale. It is key to maintain a level where you can carry on a normal conversation with someone while keeping a steady breath.
If you were active before, you more than likely can continue that level of intensity. If you were strength training and running prior to getting pregnant, than you can continue that. Please note: Your physician’s advice supersedes this. Wearing a heart rate monitor during pregnancy is not recommended because heart rates and effort will vary depending on each individual. Always listen to your body, you know best.
2. Are there any exercises I should avoid?
You should always get clearance from your doctor and the ACOG (American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) warns that both lying down in the supine position and standing without moving, as well as certain yoga positions, should be avoided. You’ll also want to avoid contact sports or any activity where you could easily lose your balance and fall. It is also recommended that you do not participate in hot yoga or hot pilates.
3. If I haven’t exercised, can I or should I start?
It’s never too late to start. (Make sure you get your doctor’s clearance). Women who start exercising when they get pregnant can reach their fitness goals with consistent effort. The key is to start small, 15-20 minutes a day, 3-5 days a week of walking, swimming or strength training. You’ll gradually work up to 30-45 minutes a day, 3-5 days a week. If you’re not confident with the use of free weights then start with machines. Need help, contact Ashley at firstname.lastname@example.org.
4. How much extra do I need to eat?
Pregnancy creates a high metabolic demand and a woman usually needs an additional 300 calories per day. Many women think that if they are pregnant that means they can eat whatever they want and desire. You have to remember that what you eat is not only affecting you but the little one inside. Making sure that the extra 300 calories you consume is nutritious and filled with vitamins and minerals is key to a healthy pregnancy.
An hour before exercise, you will want to have a little snack that combines a complex carb (sweet potato, oatmeal, quinoa, etc.), a protein (lean meats or protein shake) and a little fat (avocado, nuts, nut butter, coconut oil, etc.). You’ll also want to keep your water intake up and sip 8-10 oz. every 15-20 minutes.
Working out and staying fit is not necessarily about preventing weight gain but more about maintaining or improving muscle mass, staying active, confident and healthy for the growing baby inside of you.
5. Will exercising affect my labor and delivery?
I know from personal experience that we can have a master plan but it doesn’t always go that way. However, I can say that staying fit throughout my pregnancy allowed me to withstand labor, feel more confident about my abilities, handle the pain better, and when it came time to push, to deliver my little one in 4 pushes. I do understand that there are a lot of factors that we can’t control during labor and delivery and each person’s experience is different. Studies have shown that the babies of women who exercise seem to tolerate the stress of contractions better. Staying fit throughout your pregnancy can improve your strength and confidence, and reduce some fears around labor and delivery. A huge bonus of staying fit during your pregnancy is that you will be able to recover and bounce back more quickly!
Guidelines of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecoloigists, Nutrition During Pregnancy, FAQ001, April 2015
SOGC Exercise in Pregnancy and Postpartum Period, Michelle F. Mottola, Larry A. Wolfe, Karen MacKinnon, Gregory Davies, 129- June 2003
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecoloigists, Exercise During Pregnancy, FAQ119, May 2016