Just the Facts

Here's some essential exercise and nutrition information for pregnant women, plus some gentle postpartum moves.

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Exercise Guidelines The following is a summary of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists' guidelines for exercising while pregnant (from Obstetrics & Gynecology 2002; 99: 171-173).

1. In the absence of contraindications, pregnant women are encouraged to engage in 30 minutes or more of moderate exercise on most, if not all, days of the week. As always, check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.

2. During the second and third trimesters, pregnant women should avoid standing motionless for too long and exercising while lying on their backs.

3. Participation in a wide range of recreational activities appears to be safe. However, activities with a high risk of falling or abdominal trauma should be avoided; these include basketball, soccer, in-line skating, downhill skiing, horseback riding, ice hockey, gymnastics and vigorous racquet sports.

4. Scuba diving is not safe at any time during pregnancy.

5. Exertion at altitudes of up to 6,000 feet appears to be safe. However, engaging in physical activities at higher altitudes carries various risks and should be avoided.

Diastasis Diastasis, a condition that sometimes occurs during pregnancy, is a separation of the rectus abdominis muscle. You can check for it before or after you give birth by lying on your back with your legs bent, feet flat on the floor. Place your fingers horizontally 1 to 2 inches above or below your bellybutton. Lift just your head off the floor and feel for a separation the width of three fingers or more. If you have a diastasis, don't be alarmed, but do avoid pressing your belly outward or rotating your torso when doing abdominal exercises--you'll exacerbate the separation.

TOP 5 PREGNANCY NUTRIENTS Include these in your daily diet:

Calcium: 1,000 mg Where to get it: Dairy foods, dark leafy greens, calcium-fortified soy milk, calcium-fortified juices and cereals

Folate (folic acid is the synthetic form, available in supplements): 600 mcg Where to get it: Dried beans, peas, lentils, orange juice, oranges, dark leafy greens, soy nuts, avocados, broccoli, asparagus

Iron: 27 mg Where to get it: Liver, meat, seafood, prune juice, dry beans, wheat germ, oatmeal, tofu, soy nuts, grains

Protein: 70 g Where to get it: Meat, poultry, seafood, dairy foods, beans and legumes, nuts

Vitamin C: 85 mg Where to get it: Citrus fruits and juices, strawberries, bell peppers, tomatoes, dark leafy greens, broccoli, Brussels sprouts

POSTPARTUM MOVES These exercises for relieving stress and regaining strength are so gentle, they can be done as soon as two days after you give birth. Just be sure to get your doctor's OK.

Belly Breathing: Sit in a chair or lie on your back, knees bent, feet flat. Place on hand on your belly and inhale through your nose for 4 counts, expanding your belly; then slowly exhale through your mouth for 4 counts, drawing your abdominal muscles in. Repeat 8 times, building up to 10 counts on the exhale. Strengthens abdominals.

Kegels: Contract the muscles around the vagina (as if you're stopping the flow of urine); hold for 10 seconds, breathing normally, then slowly release. Repeat 10 times 3-4 times a day. Strengthens pelvic-floor muscles.

Pelvic Tilts: Lie on your back, knees bent, feet flat. Inhale, then exhale and tilt your pelvis, placing your lower back gently on the floor; draw abs in and contract your buttocks. Release and repeat 8 to 10 times, progressing to 15. Strengthens abs and buttocks.

For a user-friendly guide to the pregnancy and childbirth terms you need to know, go to fitpregnancy.com/glossary.