Weight Training and Pregnancy
Is it safe to lift weights during pregnancy? In most cases weight training and pregnancy go hand by hand. Most women can continue training until the later stages of pregnancy under medical supervision.
Healthy pregnant women without complications who exercise regularly may continue participating in appropriately adjusted sessions of physical activity, thereby maintaining cardiovascular and muscular fitness throughout pregnancy and postpartum.
Previously sedentary women may also benefit from regular exercise during pregnancy, although a
program consistent with their physical capabilities should involve professional guidance, motivation, and a gradual increase in physical activity.
The basic weight training rules for pregnant women
These are the most important roles regarding weight training and pregnancy.
- Reduce intensity (use less weight, do fewer series, increase rest periods).
- Shorten your daily training time (30 minutes is usually enough).
- Avoid holding your breath.
- Do not do any exercises that put pressure on your tummy (e.g.,“dorsal row” machines).
- Do not do any exercises in a prone position (lying with the face downward) after the third or fourth month of gestation (approximately 20 weeks of gestation).
- Slow the pace of aerobic exercises to avoid raising your pulse rate above 120-140 beats/min (depending on your age and your doctor’s recommendations).
- Do not perform movements to the limits. Hormonal changes can cause instability in the joints.
- Perform stretches with caution for the same reason.
- Strictly control your hydration and diet.
- The later months of pregnancy are the most delicate, and your doctor may recommend that you reduce training to the level of mobility exercises with no additional load.
- Avoid exercises that are technically difficult or potentially hazardous.
- Stop any competitive sports.
- Pay attention to your body’s temperature and the ambient temperature inside the training room.
- Be careful with hygiene and your physical and mental well-being.
- Post-natal recovery should be supervised by your doctor. However, most women can return to their normal exercise routine a few weeks after giving birth, especially when they have not suffered any complications and were in good physical condition before becoming pregnant.
Key points to remember…
Being physically fit helps you through your pregnancy and speeds your recovery after you have a baby. The most important rule is to pay attention to what’s going on physically. If you’re feeling muscle strain or excessive fatigue, modify the moves you’re doing and/or reduce the frequency of your workouts. Pregnancy isn’t the time to push yourself to your limits. What you should strive for is to maintain a healthy, moderate level of activity.
Always check with your healthcare provider before you start an exercise program when you’re pregnant. Continue to evaluate the safety and appropriateness of your training with your doctor as your pregnancy progresses. Furthermore, apply the same even after you give birth.
Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy
Most pregnant women who follow their physician’s recommendations can attain maternal health and fitness benefits while subjecting the developing fetus to minimal risk. The following are some of the
benefits for pregnant women who engage in properly designed prenatal exercise programs:
- Improved cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness;
- Facilitated recovery from labor;
- Faster return to prepregnancy weight, strength, and flexibility levels;
- Reduced postpartum belly;
- More energy reserve;
- Fewer obstetric interventions;
- Shorter active phase of labor and less pain;
- Less weight gain;
- Improved mood and self-concept;
- Reduced feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression;
- Increased likelihood of adopting permanent healthy lifestyle habits;
- Reduced the risk of developing conditions associated with pregnancy including preeclampsia (pregnancyinduced hypertension) and gestational diabetes mellitus (a form of diabetes first diagnosed during pregnancy);
- Preventing or treating other conditions including low back pain, pelvic floor muscle dysfunction,
pregnancy-related urinary incontinence, and chronic musculoskeletal conditions;
Fetal Response to Exercise
Some research has revealed reduced birth weight in babies whose mothers performed high-intensity
exercise throughout their pregnancy. The lower birth weight was approximately 300 to 350 g (10-12
ounces) and apparently resulted from a decreased amount of subcutaneous fat in the newborn. More
moderate exercise sessions may therefore be advisable for pregnant women.
Vigorous exercise during pregnancy is associated with a 5 to 15 beat/minute increase in fetal heart rate,
but there are no documented adverse fetal effects related to exercise-induced fetal heart rate changes. With respect to preterm labor, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists states that in the majority of healthy pregnant women without additional risk factors for preterm labor, exercise does not increase either baseline uterine activity or the incidence of preterm labor or delivery.
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Closing thoughts about Weight Training and Pregnancy
Healthy pregnant women should be encouraged to participate in daily physical activity throughout pregnancy. In any case, pregnant women should consult with their health care provider before initiating an exercise program or modifying a current program. In the presence of obstetric or medical complications, it may be necessary to alter the training program as determined by the client’s obstetrician.
There has been substantial research documenting the beneficial effects of exercise during pregnancy on the physiology and health of both the mother and developing fetus. Fears that the fetus may be harmed by increased blood circulation, thermoregulatory changes, or decreased oxygen supply can be minimized with appropriate precautions. The general consensus is that most recreational pursuits are appropriate for all pregnant women. Those already engaged in an exercise program before pregnancy may continue with moderate levels of exercise until the third trimester, when a logical reduction in activity is recommended.