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Maternity Monday: Working Out While Pregnant

Spoiler alert: Your body is going to change when you get pregnant. It’s healthy and normal to gain weight throughout your pregnancy, but at the same time you can gain too much weight. Keeping yourself in shape may not be in the forefront of your mind, but doctors say that working out before, during and after pregnancy is extremely important. In fact, being at a healthy weight may increase your chances of getting pregnant. Being in good shape during your pregnancy will make your labor and delivery a little easier on your body. 

preconception, pregnancy and childbirth
Join us as we journey through preconception, pregnancy, childbirth and beyond in a series we call Maternity Monday.

When To Start Exercising If Pregnant

UVA pediatrician Ina Stephens, MD, highly recommends women work out during pregnancy. “A pregnant woman can certainly work out and should be encouraged to do so,” she says. “Heavy weight lifting should be deterred, but otherwise, working out as you had been doing prior to becoming pregnant should be continued as long as you are feeling well and your ob/gyn feels that you are having a healthy pregnancy without complications.”

In fact, Stephens herself earned a black belt in Tae Kwon Do while she was eight months pregnant.

“If you work out before getting pregnant, continue to do so during pregnancy,” Stephens says. “It’s healthy, normal and safe.”

Working Out While Pregnant

On the other hand, if you weren’t big into exercise before getting pregnant, Stephens warns that it may not be the best time to start pushing yourself to the limit. It is still safe to be active, of course. Great options include low-impact exercises such as:

  • Stretching
  • Walking
  • Swimming

In addition, Stephens highly recommends prenatal yoga. The stretching benefits along with the connection you will have with your body are valuable for both you and your baby.

Body Expectations & Healthy Weight Gain During Pregnancy

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So, what is a healthy weight gain? Stephens says to expect about 20-23 pounds of weight gain during a healthy pregnancy. This range will depend on your body type and whether you start at, below, or under your ideal weight before getting pregnant. Pregnant women should expect to gain about a pound per week during the second and third trimester. You’ll gain less weight the first and last month of your pregnancy than the remainder of the time.

One myth that must be busted is that a smaller baby is easier to deliver. Some pregnant women will go on a diet while pregnant to ensure a smaller baby. This can be incredibly dangerous to both you and your unborn child. You should add calories to your diet, not take them away. An additional 300 calories per day should be extremely helpful to keep up your energy as well as give your baby the nutrition it needs to grow.

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Losing the Baby Weight

If you’re breastfeeding, continue to eat extra calories after giving birth. “There is no place for dieting when it comes to breastfeeding moms,” says Stephens. “Your body needs the extra calories, and it can take a toll on the baby if they do not get the calories they need. Your body is already going to be exhausted from lack of sleep, so stamina is important.”

Losing weight after giving birth comes naturally when breastfeeding. Continue on the healthy diet that you followed while you were pregnant, and your body will begin to shed the baby weight naturally.

Be sure to ask your obstetrician before resuming your workout routine after giving birth. Your body has been through a lot of trauma and needs time to repair itself before you start working out. Stephens says two weeks is a safe amount of time for those moms who had a natural birth and a little longer for those who had a cesarean section.

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