Journeying through Pregnancy with Intention
The Importance of Exercise During Pregnancy
The now widely popular admonition to be “intentional”, once a phrase more commonplace in the practice of yoga, describes a special way to define your pregnancy. Women’s bodies are simply amazing! When we have the privilege of pregnancy the changes that occur physiologically to support the growth of the baby are incredible! Part of being intentional while pregnant involves tuning into these changes in your body. The uterus, a strong, protective muscle, grows and expands, starting at just the size of a pear. The mother’s blood volume increases up to 50 percent throughout pregnancy. The cervix, which can be described as the bottleneck of the uterus, remains thick and closed until the end of a normal pregnancy. The membrane of the amniotic sac is strong and intact to contain and cushion the baby in a climate controlled environment. I like to describe it as a swimming pool for baby that is the perfect temperature.
It is also helpful to be aware of the function of the hormonal changes in pregnancy. The hormone Relaxin, for example, allows the joints to relax to allow for expansion of the pelvis to accommodate for growth of the baby. There is the development of an entirely new organ, the placenta, that nourishes and oxygenates the baby. As you begin to notice the changes that come with pregnancy, it can help to occasionally stop, and take a slow, deep breath to acknowledge the incredible work that your body is doing to support your beautiful baby. After that take two more breaths….exhaling away stress and focusing on the wonder of your developing baby.
Regular Exercise During Pregnancy Helps Manage Weight Gain
Taking charge of what you can in your pregnancy is empowering. So much growth and development is occurring behind the scenes. Eating well, taking prenatal vitamins, and exercise are all components of what a woman can do to promote a healthy pregnancy and a safe birth. Managing weight gain throughout pregnancy can be a challenge, but controlling what you can to stay within the recommended guidelines is important. Regular exercise is a key to both optimal weight gain, and decreasing the risk of many potential complications that excess weight can cause including gestational diabetes, hypertension, and cesarean section. Although not directly related to weight gain, exercise is also instrumental in decreasing depression, decreasing stress, improving mood, and increasing energy.
Exercise During Pregnancy Can Help Ease Discomfort
The most universal complaint during pregnancy is lower back pain and hip pain, which is directly related to postural changes due to the growth of the uterus. Exercise can help ease these discomforts. Simple exercises such as sitting on a birth (fitness) ball and doing hip circles, forward bending over a counter to stretch the back, pelvic tucks either seated on the ball, standing, or on all fours all can provide relief as well as act as a preventative measure. Strong abdominal muscles are important in reducing lower back pain, but there is no need to worry if you did not begin the pregnancy with “six pack” abs! Belly breaths, either seated or standing, in which you focus on lifting up your baby within, can strengthen your abdominal core. Another great abdominal core builder is to daily perform a plank, with good form, and gradually increase the length of time the plank is held-30 seconds, 60 seconds, 90 seconds.
Continuing or adopting a regular exercise routine will typically decrease pregnancy related lower back and pelvic pain. If you were a runner prior to pregnancy, keep running, of course always confer with your physician. If you were active before pregnancy continue your routine to the extent your provider approves. You often will only need to omit higher risk athletics such as contact sports, scuba diving and “hot” yoga.
If you were not particularly active before pregnancy this is an ideal time to slowly introduce regular exercise into your life. Remember that even simply taking a daily walk will lower your risk of pregnancy related lower back and pelvic pain. Yoga is especially helpful during pregnancy for the benefits of stretching, strength, and relaxation. Yoga’s focus on breathing is good preparation for labor, and the practice helps many to reduce stress and prevent depression.
Exercise During Pregnancy for Physical, Mental & Emotional Health!
Daily setting your intention to care for your body through exercise will produce results, so that you feel your best physically, mentally, and emotionally during pregnancy which will benefit both you and your baby!