5 Essential Exercises For a Healthy Pregnancy
No mother enters pregnancy saying she hopes to gain all the weight, have gestational diabetes, suffer from preeclampsia, or receive an unplanned, preventable c-section due to a complication.
While genetics plays a part, a healthy lifestyle can override many preventable issues that commonly arise during pregnancy.  Our society is the heaviest and unhealthiest it has ever been; this includes pregnant women.  Maternal and fetal death rates are too high, more children than ever are suffering from autism, cancers, and chronic illnesses.  It is time for a change, and the change starts with us.

5 Essential Exercises For a Healthy Pregnancy

Healthy living is no longer a trend but a lifestyle choice for so many within the childbearing age bracket now.  A great divide is occurring that is placing people in the know when it comes to foods, toxins, and healing ourselves naturally.  There are many who will choose ignorance, choose to continue leading their lives in booths at unhealthy restaurants, sitting all day, and filling their bodies and air with harmful chemicals.  But, the numbers are shifting, and more people are walking away from the ignorance. More people are aiming at bettering their lives and the lives of their children.
It starts in utero, this ‘bettering’ of a child’s life.  A mother has the ability to help her growing child by consuming the highest quality foods, keeping toxins out, and by allowing highly oxygenated blood flow into her fetus.  Foods, lifestyle choices, and exercise are the key components to supporting the healthiest pregnancy possible.
While eating well and ending bad habits are easily accepted, exercise, it seems, tends to scare many mothers. But why?  The most common misconceptions of exercising while pregnant include:
  • “I wasn’t working out before, I can’t start now.”
  • “Working out will cause a miscarriage.”
  • “I’ll overheat the baby.”
  • “A high heart rate can cause problems.”
  • “I’ll hurt the baby.”
All of the above is untrue.  Exercise is not only safe but incredibly important while pregnant. Prenatal exercise:
  • Reduces back pain
  • Eases constipation
  • Provides richer oxygenated blood from the heart through the body and to the placenta
  • Decreases the risk of gestational diabetes
  • Decreases the risk of preeclampsia
  • Decreases the risk of cesarean delivery
  • Promotes a healthy weight gain during pregnancy
  • Strengthens the heart and blood vessels
  • Increases probability of making it to full term
  • Helps you to lose the baby weight after your baby is born
  • Decreases the chances of depression
  • Reduces stress levels
  • Allows for better sleep
  • Prepares the body for labor and birth
  • Reduces anxiety
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Boosts brain development in fetus
  • Lowers the heart rate of the baby in utero, which allows the heart to be stronger during labor
  • Lowers risk of childhood obesity and other chronic diseases
The key is to listen to your body.  The body is able to workout throughout pregnancy, but each woman may require different exercises or variations to meet her body’s needs.  Always talk to your birth team if you have any concerns or questions.
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The goal should be a minimum of 30 minutes of physical activity a day.  This activity does not include your day-to-day normal routine but means an EXTRA 30 minutes when the heart rate is elevated and the body is working. Running, walking with vigor, biking, hiking, yoga, aerobic classes, sports, and dancing are all wonderful examples.  Pregnancy is not an illness or an excuse, but a reason – a reason to do more and be better.  You can start slow if exercising is foreign to you.  Five-minute increments throughout the day will build to longer sessions quickly.
The ‘FitMom’ hashtags and photos are everywhere.  So we know that pregnancy is not slowing women down.  You can continue your current exercise program without alterations if you are comfortable with it, but keep in mind that your body will change and typically that means the workouts will too.  Pay attention to form while performing your workout, and listen to the body as it recovers.  Rest well and often, and always stay hydrated.
There are several pregnancy-specific exercises that mothers should include daily to prepare for labor and healing afterward:

1. Cat/Cow

Helping to guide the baby into an ideal birthing position, this common yoga exercise is performed on all fours as you round the back upward and then arch it toward the ground and look toward the sky.

2. Pelvic Rocks

Helping to engage the baby, pelvic rocks can be done while standing or while on all fours.  The pelvis is simply rocked forward and back while keeping the abdomen tight and belly sucked in.

3. Squats

Squatting shortens the birth canal and helps baby drop into the lowest possible birthing position. Shoulders stay back, abs stay pulled in tight, legs are wide, and the weight shifts to the heels as you squat low.

4. Kegels

This muscle resembles a hammock that stretches below the uterus.  It is responsible for keeping the bladder strong during and after pregnancy.  Kegel exercises can be done anywhere and at any time.  The key is to do them right.  As you pee, pay attention to the muscle you use to stop and restart the flow of urine. That is the kegel muscle.  Work on squeezing that muscle throughout the day.

5. Meditation/Relaxation

Life is stressful, parenthood is stressful, pregnancy can be hard, and labor can be intimidating.  Take the time each day to refocus on yourself as a host to this baby.  Re-center your emotions to connect with the life you are growing.  Relaxation will help throughout labor, but it is also the key to balancing everything.
As a lifelong fitness lover, and a mother to 4 little ones, I will leave you with this:
You begin being a role model the moment you start growing a baby.  Let your journey to fitness be one that you take together.

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