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Exercising While Pregnant: Myth Vs. Fact

There are many myths about what women should and should not do when pregnant, especially when talking about prenatal exercise. A few of these include: Regularexercise during pregnancy can cause a miscarriage, hormonal imbalance, overstressing of the joints, uterine bleeding, and overheating of the fetus in the womb. In fact, a woman’s body temperature will fall slightly as soon as she is on her feet and moving around, and her cooling system is much more efficient during pregnancy.

How did many of these myths begin and how were they disproved?

Many of these myths started as a result of research performed on animals, which often do not correlate to human pregnancies. Thankfully, research conducted in the past 15 years or so has disproved these myths. According to Dr. Artal and Dr. Clapp “… the benefits of exercise appear to be substantial for both the woman and the pregnancy.”

Ironically, much of the research that set out to prove why exercise was not good for the pregnant woman ended up proving the opposite! Exercising while pregnant has been proven to shorten time in labor, reduce the chances for postpartum depressions, provide more oxygen to baby and promote faster return to pre-pregancy weight and muscle tone. Not to mention that mothers who exercise throughout their entire pregnancies have fewer complications than those who exercise sporadically, quit in the middle, or don’t exercise at all. Furthermore, some studies show that a five year old “fit” child has better speech, oral abilities and a higher intelligence level than children whose mothers did not exercise during pregnancy.

How does exercise affect the your growing baby?

After about 10 minutes into the mother’s workout, the baby’s heart rate will increase. During pregnancy, blood volume is increased, which increases the amount of red cells that carry oxygen and allows blood vessels to carry more blood at once. When mom’s exercise they increase their blood volume another 10 percent. This is good news for the fetus, because there is more than enough blood to go around. Additionally, with more hemoglobin transporting oxygen during exercise, more blood is pumped with each beat of the mom’s heart. So the placenta provides more blood and oxygen to the fetus than usual.

Also, moderate exercise during mid-pregnancy seems to promote growth and function of the placenta. This improves its ability to transport blood and nutrients to the baby and prevents fetal oxygen deprivation. The benefits of this may even come into play during a difficult labor. the healthier the placenta, the better protected the nutrient flow is to the baby.

Exercise plans vary from individual to individual depending on your personal level of fitness and experience. As with any fitness plan, Doctors and health care providers should be consulted first.

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