“No myth about women’s health has existed for so long as the belief that women should stop exercising during pregnancy”. (John D Ratey MD, SPARK, The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain p. 197).
One of the most common questions people ask me is if they can exercise during pregnancy? The answer is: YES. You should. Here is why:
In 2002 the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) began recommending exercise for pregnant and postpartum mothers. It is not that long ago in other words. Today ACOG actually recommend women to begin exercising when they become pregnant. The reason being is to counter high blood pressure, diabetes, preeclampsia and other harmful states that can develop during gestation, which can lead to harm both for the mother and the child.
As a Coach who works with pregnant women on a daily basis – I meet expectant mothers who don’t have a clear idea of what they can do or what they should do. Most women think in terms of avoiding exercise rather than engaging in it. The truth is, if they knew or understood the benefits of exercise during pregnancy – not only in reducing pregnancy risks but also in helping them with their mental and physical health INCLUDING their babies – I am certain more women would feel more comfortable being active.
Did you know that estrogen and progesterone levels remain much higher than normal during pregnancy? And in many cases this means it can stabilise women’s mood help reduce anxiety and depression. Research also show that some women with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder are able to sit still and read when pregnant. In other words pregnancy can spark hormones for the better.
It is also well established that mothers state of mind can alter her baby development. Anxiety, stress and depression can have a powerful impact on pregnancy and result in miscarriage, low with weight, birth defects of the baby and in extreme cases death. Babies born to unhappy mothers are fussier, harder to soothe, less responsive and unpredictable sleeping patterns. More so, these babies and children are more likely to suffer cognitive impairments and to be hyperactive. This is disturbing information that is not discussed, neither informed by doctors to expectant mothers or women going through postpartum. Information that is absolutely crucial. Especially since we know there is help to get and something we can do about it. I believe it isn’t talked about because of the stigma it creates. People (doctors) are afraid of speaking the truth and are worried that society will blame mothers for their babies mental and physical state. Exercise can prevent anxiety, stress and depression. It can also prevent a lot of unnecessary complications. And help women cope with their mental and physical state. That is fact and it has been clinically proven over and over again. Despite the fact – many women are still leery of exercising while pregnant and research show that up to 60 percent (!!) remain inactive.
Most studies show that exercise reduces nausea, muscle pain and fatigue. More important – it reduces fat accumulation. Training while pregnant cuts in half the risk of developing abnormal glucose levels, something that can lead to gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes is a condition that results in overweight babies. High glucose levels are also an indicator to develop type 2 diabetes in both the mother and the baby. The good news is that regardless of how active a woman was before pregnancy, exercise still helps during pregnancy. One study showed that walking at a higher tempo five hours a week reduces the risk of gestational diabetes by 75 percent!
Another motivator could be to understand the positive effects exercise during pregnancy have on the baby. (James Clapp, Exercising through Your Pregnancy 2002). Clapp proved that with exercise, the fuel line between the mother and baby grows, to ensure the fetus gets the nutrients and oxygen it needs. Other studies from Clapp show that newborns of active women are much leaner, are more responsive to stimuli and better able to quiet themselves. Clapp suggests that infants of exercising mothers are more neurologically developed than their counterparts from non exercising mothers. It does not stop there. Studies also show significant differences in IQ and oral language skills by the age of five. The children of exercisers performed a lot higher on cognitive tests and observations suggest that years later their academic performance is better than kids whose mothers were inactive during pregnancy.
Holy macaroni – these findings are AMAZING. So let’s start the conversation and spread the word. If you read this and know of someone that is pregnant, do me a favor – forward them this blog/information. You can help a struggling mother who deals with anxiety/depression/health issues and you can help her unborn child.
“Full Body Recovery Workout’
6 Single Leg Deadlift (R/L)
30ft Toe Walk 30 Second
Side Plank (R/L)
8 Reverse Lunge (each)
**Courtesy of Active Life RX**
I Am Serious… And Don’t Call Me Shirley.”