All mothers are working mothers. Whether you spend all day in an office, telecommute from home, work on an assembly line or run after your 5-year-old, you’re probably busy all the time. But that’s no reason to neglect other aspects of your life while pregnant. To help you juggle it all, we’ve put together a special working woman’s guide to exercising and solving two workplace pregnancy dilemmas: strategizing for the best possible maternity leave and making sure your baby is safe from hazards at your job.
It was probably a challenge to find time for exercise even before you got pregnant. But now, more than ever, you stand to reap big benefits from staying active. Perhaps the most convincing reason to stay fit is to feel good. “I’m a firm believer that exercising gives you more energy,” says Katherine Rowell, 31, who ran a day-care center in Cambridge, Mass., while pregnant with her son Griffin. “I was tired during the first trimester, so I cut back from five workouts a week to three or four. After that, I had plenty of energy.”
Stress relief Exercise can also soothe your nerves. “Staying active cuts down on the stress of working while pregnant,” says Gretchen Tafe, a 35-year-old teacher from West Roxbury, Mass., who is mother to Hal, 2, and expecting her second child. “The little things don’t bother me so much.” Some moms are convinced this feel-good effect trickles down to baby, and they may be right. Infants whose mothers exercised regularly through pregnancy seem to be more neurodevelopmentally advanced, says a 1999 study from Case Western Reserve University at MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland. At 5 days old, these babies were significantly better at quieting themselves when exposed to stimuli than infants born to inactive mothers.
“I did yoga four times a week until Daphne was born, and I think the calmness rubbed off,” says Sandy Holbrook James, 31, of Sausalito, Calif. These moms know firsthand what researchers preach. “Exercise is a stress reducer,” says Jaci VanHeest, Ph.D., an exercise physiologist at the University of Connecticut who is researching exercise in pregnant women. “When you’re tired but there’s demand for you to increase your energy and handle stress, exercise can absolutely help.”
Physical benefits “Women who were active before getting pregnant and who maintain their cardio fitness and strength may have shorter, less stressful labors; recover more quickly from labor; and seem more capable of handling the demands of labor,” says VanHeest.