First Trimester | Fit Pregnancy

First Trimester

Best Pregnancy Exercises

Best-Pregnancy-Exercises

Walking is the perfect exercise for almost anyone at any time--especially pregnant women: It provides a cardiovascular workout without jarring or stressing your joints, ligaments, growing belly and breasts. In fact, it's so gentle that even sedentary women can start walking while pregnant. "Walking is fantastic for so many reasons, including the fact that most of us can walk with ease no matter how big we get," says Danielle Symons Downs, Ph.D., assistant professor of kinesiology and director of the exercise psychology laboratory at Pennsylvania State University.

Prenatal Exercises

Prenatal-Exercises

If you're not having any complications, you can and should exercise every day for about 30 minutes, according to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. You can exercise at a similar intensity to your prepregnancy level as long as you stay well-hydrated and avoid overheating. A good rule of thumb is to not increase intensity or duration beyond what you are used to doing so you don't overexert yourself. Stop immediately if you feel lightheaded or have contractions or bleeding. Using the "talk test" is an easy way to monitor your intensity while exercising.

Off-Limit Activities

Off-Limit-Activities

"Scuba diving is a major no-no because of the oxygen considerations. With other activities, you need to weigh the benefits versus the potential risks," says Renee Jeffreys, M.S., an exercise physiologist in Cincinnati, and personal trainer with Fitness for Women (www.fitnessforwomenonline.com). After 15 weeks, the risks of falling and abdominal trauma become dangerous, so an aggressive game of basketball--where elbows are being thrown--wouldn't be a good idea.

Aquacizing

Aquacizing

It's better than OK: Swimming and other water-based activities are among the best things a pregnant woman can do for herself. Because you are suspended in water, the activity is easy on your joints and muscles, and you can maintain a fairly high level of intensity without straining, Downs says. Of course, you should feel comfortable in the water; if you're at all hesitant, use a flotation device and stay in the shallow end of the pool. Avoid water that's too hot or cold; a temperature between 80° F and 84° F is ideal.

Exercise Warning Signs

Exercise-Warning-Signs

Since the ligaments attached to your uterus are being stretched from all sides, don't be alarmed if you feel pulls and twinges in your groin, side or lower back while exercising or just going about your daily activities. It's also natural to feel more out of breath than usual--just back off the intensity a bit. But heed these warning signs: lightheadedness, contractions or cramping to the point of pain and bleeding. If you experience any of these, contact your doctor immediately.

Lifting Weights

Lifting-Weights

"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.

Flu Shots

Flu-Shots

Pregnant women are at higher risk of suffering from pneumonia and other complications of the flu, so you are specifically encouraged to get the influenza vaccine (so are the elderly, health-care workers and people with compromised immune systems). Getting immunized also may help protect your baby: The antibodies generated by the vaccine cross the placenta, so it's likely that the baby will have some degree of protection following birth. Ask your doctor about thimerosal-free vaccines.

Couch Potato Exercises

Couch-Potato-Exercises

Even if you have no favorite exercise from your past to offer inspiration, there's no time like the present to get off the couch and integrate motion into your life. Start by taking a 15- to 30-minute walk each day. If this sounds daunting, do what you need to make it a more attractive proposition--enlist a friend to join you or listen to a book on tape. If it still doesn't appeal to you, try swimming--it's one of the most beneficial activities for pregnant women. Also consider taking a prenatal exercise or yoga class.

Painful Breasts

Painful-Breasts

This is perfectly normal. Breast tenderness is caused by the increased volume of blood and other fluids, as well as the heightened hormone production, of pregnancy. While it may be uncomfortable, this sensitivity is considered one of the most reliable signs that your pregnancy is progressing well.

Electric Blankets

Electric-Blankets

Overheating has been associated with pregnancy loss and birth defects, but using an electric blanket at a comfortable setting has not been shown to be unsafe for you or your baby. That said, if you were to become so warm that you perspired a great deal, you would be at risk for dehydration. To avoid any risks, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that pregnant women use their electric blankets to heat up their beds prior to bedtime, then turn them off when sleeping, to avoid any risk of overheating.

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