I fear that too many women view exercise as unsafe during pregnancy. This couldn’t be further from the truth (unless due to a special circumstance, your doctor tells you otherwise). Exercise in general is so good for the body, and that doesn’t change with pregnancy. Society seems to tell pregnant women that they should just rest, after all, their bodies are busy putting energy towards creating a little human being! While rest can be good, exercise should not be forgotten or neglected. This is still an important time to be active!
There are many benefits of exercising during pregnancy. In general it can decrease stress, give you energy and help you sleep better. Keeping your blood pumping through exercise is amazing for your circulation as well as avoiding other pregnancy discomforts. Leg cramps may result from a decrease in circulation in the lower body or increased pressure on the nerves that go to your legs. Regular exercise can improve this circulation to your lower body. I also have not experienced much for swelling throughout my body or with veins, and I attribute that to keeping my blood flowing to all areas of my body, as well as because I need to push fluids more due to training.
Continuing with your exercise regimen can help keep your body feeling more balanced and regulated as your hormones and body change. It can also help relieve discomforts. It increases your stamina and flexibility for labor. Overall, women who are active tend to have an easier time with labor. It can also make your postpartum recovery a little easier, and quicker too for getting back into shape afterwards. Your baby may also receive an emotional lift (just like you do!) from your adrenaline, while the endorphins your body releases after exercise can calm them. The baby may also find the motion soothing as well. When exercise raises your heart rate and gets your blood pumping, it also delivers more oxygen to your baby, as much as 15% I was once told!
Both my husband and I did feel that the fact that I continued to be so active probably did help prevent a lot of pregnancy problems. I think I mostly just was blessed to not have morning sickness in the first trimester, though I do understand it when women say that exhaustion comes with it (my doctor also said my energy level should return to what it was before by about 15 weeks). Due to the training load my body was undergoing before pregnancy, however, I was used to pushing myself through most of the times I felt pretty fatigued. Getting out and working out also got my blood pumping and made it easier to get through as it woke me up and made me feel more refreshed again. I was definitely sleeping well at night too! My tiredness continued, but I attribute that to the fact that I stayed very active. Due to the change in hormones, mood swings can be associated with pregnancy. Neither I nor my husband (perhaps the better judge!) noticed any substantial changes in my mood. I’ve never been one to be a drama queen though either, and I wasn’t about to start!
Exercise can help keep your blood sugar levels in check, to help you avoid gestational diabetes (none for me!) and help you keep your weight gain under control. Different women will gain different amounts of weight and their belly size will also vary. It’s hard to know what it will be like for you until you go through it and see how your body responds. Height can play a big role in how big you look, as it determines how much space you have to give within your torso, so shorter women will have bellies that stick out a lot more and a lot sooner than taller women. This can also determine how much back pain you may have as well, as it all depends on how you carry your child. I’m on the taller side, so I didn’t feel like my belly got in the way of doing many things. I did start having back pain in the last trimester, despite being smaller. There are times when I still felt like I couldn’t bend very well, especially when the baby pushed up into the rib cage. I was however, still able to do flip turns in the pool! That was exciting for me as I was expecting to have to give that up at some point. Some days it definitely did feel more cramped, but it depended on the baby’s current positioning.
With or without exercise, some women just aren’t as fortunate in some areas, but that still does not reduce the benefits of exercise overall. Get active and stay active for as long as you can!