The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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During my second month of pregnancy, I developed morning sickness. But it wasn’t just in the morning. I felt nauseated all day long. At first, I tried lying very still, with a cool cloth on my forehead. I nibbled crackers, put my feet up and tried not to think about my churning stomach. When that didn’t work, I decided to return to my regular routine, which, depending on the day of the week, included running, using a stair-climbing machine, and
taking step aerobics and body-sculpting classes at the gym.
Each time I exercised, my nausea disappeared, and I felt refreshed, rejuvenated and 100-percent healthy. Apparently, I’m not alone. Research shows that exercising during pregnancy has a number of benefits. “Exercise can help relieve morning sickness, constipation and lower-back pain,” says James F. Clapp III, M.D., professor of reproductive biology at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, who has researched exercise and pregnancy for 15 years. “It also will help you sleep better. You’ll feel like you have much more get-up-and-go. And you’ll recover faster after you deliver.”
Get fit to deliver Clapp’s studies show that sustained prenatal exercise, such as running, aerobics and stair climbing, helps women deliver more quickly and easily, with fewer complications. About 80 percent of 250 women who exercised for 20 minutes at least three times a week at a moderate to high intensity had spontaneous vaginal deliveries, and the active phase of their labor was one-third shorter than that of women who were more sedentary. In addition, the use of forceps and the number of Cesarean sections were 300 percent greater among those in the study who didn’t exercise.
Many women work out with weights during pregnancy to build strength and counteract shoulder and back pain caused by a growing tummy and breasts. “The focus is not on spot muscle toning,” says Kathy Stevens, a Reebok master trainer in Palos Verdes, Calif., and mother of five, who designed the routine that follows. “The point is to use weights to strengthen your supporting muscles so you can keep your posture in alignment and handle the stresses that are placed on your expanding body.” Stevens’ workout can be done in the gym or at home. Because pregnant women tend to feel fatigued easily and should avoid straining tendons and joints, Stevens suggests using lighter weights and more repetitions initially. (Remember to stay off your back after the fourth month, because the pressure