The benefits of prenatal exercise are often overlooked by expecting mothers, especially in light of the nausea, fatigue, and aches and pains that often accompany pregnancy. However, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), “Regular activity also helps keep you fit during pregnancy and may improve your ability to cope with the pain of labor.” It also warns pregnant women not to attempt to lose weight during pregnancy — the goal here is to maintain fitness despite drastic changes in your body.
Fitness. Babies wreak havoc on muscle tone, and certain hormonal changes during pregnancy can cause your joints to loosen. These effectively raise your risk of injury during pregnancy. Regular exercise (about 30 minutes per day) can help build up the muscles around these joints to keep them in place and protect from injury.
Bodily health. The body is designed to require exercise to operate properly, and during pregnancy that need may even increase. Regular exercise helps prevent excess fluid from pooling in the extremities, potentially decreasing swelling in feet and ankles. It also stimulates the body’s various systems and reduces the risk of constipation, as well as keeps blood flow strong throughout the body to help prevent blood clots (a common and potentially very serious pregnancy risk).
Lower pregnancy complications. Evidence indicates that prenatal exercise may help prevent preeclampsia, a potentially fatal pregnancy complication. In addition, exercise may be beneficial in managing or preventing gestational diabetes, or managing existing diabetes during pregnancy.
Energy and pain prevention. Pregnancy is often accompanied by moderate to severe fatigue, and the changes in the body can cause all manner of aches and pains. While these factors may discourage exercise, they make it even more important to go out of your way to exercise. Better oxygen circulation and the endorphins released during exercise can help alleviate pregnancy-related stress and anxiety, as well as give you much-needed energy and improve focus. In addition, exercise encourages good posture and lubricates the joints, both of which may help alleviate and prevent pain.