There is a popular belief that a healthy pregnancy is a “tranquil” pregnancy, the one that leads physical inactivity hand in hand. But, fortunately, it is ceasing to be so. For a long time, good pregnancy and simple birth have been linked to physical exercise. In the third century BC, for example, Aristotle already attributed difficult births to a sedentary lifestyle. With the passage of time, the link between physical exercise and pregnancy has been evolving and adapting to what research has been discovering. At present there are many studies that support the prescription of physical exercise in pregnant women, ensuring minimum risks and great benefits.
Pregnancy is a good time to take care of yourself, which takes physical activity and food hand in hand. During this period of life women suffer hormonal, morphological and emotional changes. It is a personal stage in which generalizing is risky because, as gynecologists say, “no pregnancy is equal to another.” The first step is the consent of the doctor, the ally of the pregnant woman during this period of her life. Once obtained, the expectant mother should be aware that her situation is not physiologically the same as before the pregnancy.
“For those women in good health and with a pregnancy without complications and low risk, exercise should be more a responsible obligation than an” option “, and for this we recommend always be in the hands of professionals. If you do not exercise you will not be doing all the best for you and the well-being of your future child, “admits Professor Guillermo Peña García-Orea, of the International Institute of Physical Exercise and Health Sciences (IICEFS), expert in exercise and pregnancy. With him we have developed this decalogue that should take into account any future mother who wants to exercise.
- Keep in mind that this period is not the time to aim to achieve high performance, brands or sporting challenges, but to incorporate or maintain a healthy lifestyle where the practice of regular exercise and moderate intensity is a cornerstone. When the intensity of the exercise is moderate, the most recent research has not been able to confirm any adverse effect on fetal development and birth weight, duration or type of delivery, prevalence of spontaneous abortions, or gestational time.
- If we have never exercised … Is pregnancy the best time to start? As a precaution, some medical and professional entities discourage beginning to exercise during that first trimester in previously sedentary women, waiting to verify that the implantation has proceeded successfully and that during those weeks there has been no sign or threat of abortion. Conversely, a woman who has already been exercising regularly prior to her pregnancy is much less likely that “exercising” of moderate intensity could pose an added risk to her condition.
- Convince yourself of the benefits: improvement of cardiorespiratory fitness, lower incidence of preeclampsia, hypertension and gestational diabetes, prevention of urinary incontinence and low back pain, better psychological well-being, better control of gestational weight gain and, in cases of gestational diabetes, lesser number of women who require insulin.
- And benefits for the future baby? What we know to date is that the results of studies related to fetal health, intrauterine level, have shown that maternal exercise has no harmful effects, even in some parameters the results are beneficial for the fetuses of active mothers. If we talk about the future health of the newborn of those women who exercised during pregnancy there are some scientific data that relate it to a reduction in the prevalence of childhood obesity and diabetes risk due to better cardiovascular and metabolic health, although there may be other variables that will explain it.
- Avoid contraindicated exercises. All physical activities may be contraindicated where: 1) There is a potential risk of falling, loss of balance or abdominal trauma (eg, snow sports, contact sports, team sports, acrobatic sports, or mountain biking); 2) And related to the above, the environment or situation where the activity takes place may be unpredictable and changing without giving an option to be controlled and predictable (for example, nautical sports, adventure sports); 3) It is very difficult to be able to self-dose the intensity of the effort, often due to a situation that requires sudden changes of effort to be made by the confrontation against an opponent (for example, any team sport); 4) Activities where they develop under extreme environmental conditions, such as high temperatures, hyperbaric conditions, situations where there may be a lack of supply or oxygen availability (for example, diving or hiking in high mountains); and finally 5) Those that may require sudden changes of direction in the displacement, high accelerations and / or high impact against the ground (for example, racquet and team sports, volleyball, etc.).
- Be runner and be pregnant … Is it compatible? In principle, those women who practiced running regularly before their pregnancy, who are in good physical shape, and whose pregnancy is low risk could continue running up to 3-4 times a week about 30 minutes per session and up to the week 22-24 approximately. In addition, this practice should be performed for all cases within ranges of intensity between moderate and somewhat hard, that is, approximately between 50-80% of the reserve heart rate. Obviously, sports competition would be discouraged throughout pregnancy. On the other hand, if a woman did not practice the race as a usual form of exercise prior to pregnancy or has a dysfunctional pelvic floor and is in the first 8-10 weeks of the implantation of the fetus, there are plenty of reasons to discourage the race.
- Walk and exercise in the water, two good allies. We can perform the same physical effort and expect to obtain the same benefits by running as by walking with a slight slope on a treadmill or an elliptical machine, and in this way minimize the risks.
- Can we and should we train strength during pregnancy? The effects of strength training on the maternal-fetal unit have been much less investigated than those produced by resistance training. However, what we know to date is that this type of training, if performed at moderate intensity, is safe and healthy for the mother, so we can affirm that it is a highly recommendable activity due to the benefits that it can bring (for example, prevent the loss of muscle and bone mass, improve glycemic control, facilitate labor and subsequent recovery, and alleviate musculoskeletal pain).
- Warning signs that would force us to immediately stop any type of exercise, such as vaginal bleeding, dizziness, painful uterine contractions, loss of amniotic fluid or redness of the calves, or any uncomfortable feeling of excessive fatigue. In some of these cases, it would be advisable to go to the doctor’s office to assess the situation and remain calm. The sensations of the woman herself are usually her best ally.
- Do not forget the pelvic floor … The need to strengthen the pelvic floor during and after pregnancy is the only thing that almost no specialist disagrees with, but only Kegel exercises and some alternative conservative treatments have proven effective, so we should not get carried away by marketing products that do not have enough scientific support.