Pregnancy Fitness: Exercise in the First Trimester
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In this article we will look at exercising in the first trimester; adjusting to the news of the pregnancy and the rapid body changes which are the biggest hurdles to overcome in early pregnancy exercise. In January 2002 the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) published new recommendations and guidelines for exercise during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Regular exercise is promoted for its overall health benefits.
Currently, most experts recommend that pregnant women be encouraged to continue and maintain an active lifestyle during their pregnancies, in the absence of medical and obstetrical complications.
There is good evidence that exercise during pregnancy improves or maintains fitness; exercise may even improve some pregnancy outcomes, including reduction in risk of developing gestational diabetes or preeclampsia, and possibly a reduction in risk of operative delivery, although data on these outcomes are limited and inconsistent.
The approach to exercise prescription for pregnant women does not differ markedly from that used in non-pregnant individuals. Sedentary healthy women can safely begin an exercise program during pregnancy. Pregnant women who, prior to becoming pregnant, regularly participated in strenuous recreational or competitive physical activities may be advised to modify their exercise routines or activity patterns. Similarly, modifications in activity may be necessary for pregnant women with medical or obstetrical complications.
Always check with your doctor before starting an exercise program while pregnant or continuing one after you discover you are pregnant. Conditions such as asthma and diabetes may make regular exercise unsafe during pregnancy. Certain conditions that develop during pregnancy -- including a low-lying placenta or vaginal bleeding -- also may preclude exercise.
Choose exercises that are safe during pregnancy and pose little risk of injury. Good choices include swimming, walking, aerobics and bike riding; try to be active at least 4 to 5 days per week. Since you are still able to be comfortably on your back this is a good time to work on core strength in the supine (lying on back) position.
Make sure to get a complete physical before you join any exercise class or start your own program, and get you and your exercise program evaluated periodically by your physician and/or a trainer qualified in pre-natal fitness. Your program may need to be modified, or discontinued because of advancing stages in your pregnancy or a previously unknown risk factor. Pay careful attention to what your body tells you while you exercise; if you sense you're overdoing it, slow down or take a break.
The main point to focus on would be to watch how you are exercising. Practicing good posture will help keep you and your baby safe while allowing you a good workout. Be sure to watch for signs of problems while exercising, particularly temperature- and dehydration-related concerns. Overheating is actually a bigger hazard in early pregnancy than it is in the second and third trimester. If your body becomes too warm, so might your baby.
A good warm up during pregnancy is important as your body is producing hormones, like relaxin, which actually make your ligaments, tendons, and joints looser. This is to aid in the birth process. For purposes of exercise, this means that you need to have extra caution about exercising and protecting these areas. A warm up is one step in this protection process.
Use the cool-down period to lead into a brief relaxation period for your mind if this works for you. Not only will you receive the physical benefits of exercise, but the mental exercises will help place you in a greater state of relaxation. The further you are in your pregnancy the more benefit you will see from this practice.
Sophia Yasmin has received training from the YMCA Fitness Industry Training, Les Mills International and the Pilates Institute in the UK. She has also trained with the Australian Fitness Network in Melbourne. Sophia holds two degrees, one from the University of London and one from the University of Melbourne; and her specialty is exercise and science.