The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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Can I lift weights while I’m pregnant?
“Strength training is not only safe, it is actually very important during pregnancy,” Shashoua says. “Women who stay fit and strong during pregnancy are able to get through the 1 to 3 hours of pushing that is sometimes required to deliver a baby better than those who aren’t as strong,” he explains. “It also helps women feel better about themselves.” Regardless of her strength-training experience, a pregnant woman may initiate or continue a program, Shashoua adds.
To avoid injury, however, lift lighter weights and do a higher number of repetitions than nonpregnant women, Shashoua says. Consider hiring a trainer who is educated in prenatal fitness to teach you safe and proper form, even if it’s just for one or two sessions. If you feel unstable, hold onto a sturdy chair while doing split-leg lunges or squats.
Why do I need to drink when I’m exercising even if I’m not thirsty?
“There’s a big link between dehydration and uterine contractions,” Shashoua says. “The hormone released during dehydration is very similar to one that causes contractions.” He says experiencing contractions is the most common reason pregnant women stop exercising, so drink well before, during and after your workouts.
Get your body back
After you give birth, gentle exercise or stretching offers a host of physical and psychological benefits, such as relieving muscle soreness and tension, reducing swelling and the biggie—burning calories. Being active also improves body image, lessens depression and reduces stress and anxiety. Experts generally advise waiting until after your 6-week postpartum checkup to resume exercising regularly if you gave birth vaginally (longer if you’ve had a C-section). Here are some suggestions for getting started:
>> Take your baby for gentle walks in a stroller or try a mom-and-baby DVD such as Postnatal Pilates (Pilates Pregnancy, 2003).
>> Work on lower-back flexibility as well as abdominal strength. “As much as your abs have stretched out and extended, your back muscles have tightened during the last several months,” says Laura Reale, a certified personal trainer and owner of Giddy (www.giddy.com), fitness facilities that offer shape-up programs for new moms, brides and executive women. A simple lower-back stretch: Lie on your back, bend one knee 90 degrees and let it fall over the straight leg. Relax for 15–30 seconds while keeping your shoulders and upper back on the floor. Breathe normally. Switch sides and repeat.