Except in special cases, mild to moderate physical activity and exercise during pregnancy is not only safe but has been shown to be beneficial.
Kegel exercises are extremely important for the pregnant woman. They function to improve and maintain pelvic floor muscular tone which is vital during pregnancy and delivery. These exercises are best initiated early in pregnancy and continued throughout the term of the pregnancy. This ensures that during the delivery process the pelvic musculature is able to withstand the changes taking place during labor. They're also important in decreasing the likelihood of tearing during delivery as well as the later development of hemorrhoids.
These exercises are performed by squeezing the muscles of the pelvic floor. This is done by contracting and holding the same muscles used to start and stop urination in midstream.
Exercise In Pregnancy Is Safe (For Mother and Fetus)
A recent study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology finds that women who exercised prior to their pregnancy can continue to do so without negatively affecting the fetus' growth or the pregnancy itself. According to the researchers, "Our results indicate that healthy and well-conditioned women may take part in the exercise during pregnancy without compromising fetal growth and development as judged by birth weight or complicating the course of pregnancy or labor." Forty-two women participated in either a medium or high-intensity exercise program throughout their pregnancy, including 6 weeks postpartum. The women exercised 6 times per week, participating in strength, interval and endurance training. All 42 women had been physically active prior to the pregnancy.
Overall, researchers discovered no differences between the high and medium intensity exercise groups in terms of labor, fetal birth weight, or the health of the infant immediately after birth. The researchers did note that women who exercised more gained more weight during pregnancy and went into labor earlier if they had a girl.
- American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 1998;178:280-286.
Exercise may protect against miscarriage
A study from the journal Epidemiology indicates that women who continue to exercise regularly during their pregnancy have a 40% lower risk of having a miscarriage of a chromosomally normal fetus compared with those who do not exercise. In the study, researchers interviewed 346 women who had suffered a miscarriage, asking them about exercise and other habits during their pregnancy. From these interviews, researchers were able to determine that exercise, such as swimming, jogging, and aerobics, reduced the risk of a miscarriage of a chromosomally normal fetus, but other physical activities such as housework, childcare or employment did not have this protective effect.
According to researchers, "The protective effect of exercise, but not of other forms of activity, may arise from the sustained aerobic nature of exercise; exertion during employment, housework, and childcare is often sporadic." Of the women interviewed, approximately 25% claimed to have exercised during their pregnancy.
- Epidemiology 1999;10:6-7, 73-75.
Athletes Can Work Out During Pregnancy
According to a case report in The Lancet, a 33 year old distance runner continued to exercise intensely throughout her pregnancy and gave birth to healthy twins, without complications. Throughout the woman's pregnancy, she ran an average of 66 miles per week with a heart rate of 130-140 beats per minute up until 3 days prior to giving birth. The researchers did warn that women who were inactive prior to their pregnancy would have to be more cautious.
- The Lancet 1998;351:1182
Soft tissue work includes massage, trigger point work, soft tissue mobilization, and other soft tissue procedures. These techniques assist in keeping muscles and other tissues relaxed and flexible while reducing bouts of muscle aches and pains.