GETTING YOURSELF IN SHAPE FOR THE BIG EVENT
What can I do to get my body ready for labor and delivery?
If they’re truly honest with themselves, most women will admit they aren’t in shape for the ordeal their body is about to experience when they learn that they are pregnant. It’s time for a little self assessment. I need for you to evaluate your established exercise routine, not the one you were planning to start someday soon, but what you actually do:
- o I exercise everyday and I’m in great shape
- o I exercise at least three times a week and I’m happy with my muscle tone
- o I work out when I can
- o I prefer not to answer this question
As we discussed in an earlier chapter, it’s best to bring in some experts for help with your physical conditioning. Any member of your healthcare team will be able to offer you some names of physical therapists or personal athletic trainers he or she would recommend. Regardless of your current exercise routine, you should consult with a trained individual. Especially if you have an undefined workout regimen, it’s critical that you get some help.
Don’t be intimidated by the process. Learn how to exercise for your own benefit and for the good of your baby.
Here are some general guidelines to follow:
- Check with your primary healthcare professional. This is probably your Ob-Gyn. Make sure you don’t have any complicating issues with your pregnancy that would impede or impact certain workout activities.
A good physical therapist is going to ask whether you are cleared by your doctor, so you might as well have that answer covered before your appointment.
- Stay away from dangerous exercises or activities. Few women will take up boxing or bronco busting while pregnant, but I’m often surprised by what some moms-to-be think are fine, safe pursuits in their condition. Check with your doctor.
I always say that you can’t stop a bowler from bowling or a runner from running or a horsy person from riding off into the sunset. All I can do is urge you to use caution and to keep moderation in mind at all times.
- Modify your activities for nine months. Your body is going to go through many changes that will leave you susceptible to ligament and/or muscle damage. Hormonal changes alone can compromise the muscles and ligaments you’ve come to rely on. Even if you’re a world class athlete, you don’t have the same body you had just a few months ago.
“Your body is going to go through many changes that will leave you susceptible to ligament and/or muscle damage.”
- Drink, drink, drink . . . water. As a pregnant woman, you’re more vulnerable than normal to dehydration when you participate in any sort of physical activity. Lack of fluids can lead to an elevated body temperature and uterine contractions—neither of which is good.
When you’re working out, you need to hydrate continually. If your cheeks are red and rosy after exercising, it won’t be the proverbial “glow” of pregnancy; it will indicate that you’re dehydrated.
I’m a bit obsessive when it comes to water. I believe you should drink a twelve (12) ounce bottle of room temperature water before you exercise and another twelve (12) ounce bottle for each half hour of activity, regardless of how strenuous. When you’re done, have another bottle. If it’s hot and humid, drink even more!
When I ask expectant moms if they’re drinking enough water, they always believe they’re glugging down plenty. One pregnant patient responded, “If I pour any more water down my throat, I’ll qualify as lakefront property.”
Check your water intake and make sure your Ob-Gyn is aware of what’s happening with your body.
- Avoid getting overheated. Please wear proper clothes when working out to help alleviate the risk of over heating. Especially when the temperatures rise, don’t shroud your pregnant body. Be proud of it. Wear cool, loose fitting clothes of natural fibers like cotton.
If you sense dizziness or if you feel flush or warm to the touch, STOP whatever you’re doing and cool down.
“If you sense dizziness or if you feel flush or warm to the touch, STOP whatever you’re doing and cool down.”
My wife had two August babies (hey, it’s cold in Colorado in December, okay?) and I got sweaty just watching her walk out to the car.
Fortunately, today’s clothes are better designed and offer better materials to keep you modest and cool at the same time compared with what your mom had to wear.
- Eat more. Yes, you read that correctly, eat more. Our culture has you freaking out because you’re getting bigger, but that’s the whole idea. You’re burning calories with exercise and you’re nourishing your baby.
You especially need to keep your calories up when you exercise often.
And remember that quality is just as important as quantity. If you don’t plan on feeding your baby fries and a chocolate shake after the birth, why would you do it now?
When you exercise, you should also have a snack such as fruit or yogurt after you have completed your workout to keep your glucose levels up.
According to the American Pregnancy Association, a good rule of thumb is three hundred (300) extra calories of wholesome food daily with moderate exercise.
- Don’t over exercise. If you can carry on a conversation while you’re working out, you aren’t excessively exerting yourself. If you can’t talk, you’re pushing too hard: slow down or stop completely and reevaluate your activity. If you don’t have a workout partner, just talk to yourself. Just tell people you’re not nuts, you’re pregnant. Trust me, they’ll understand.
If you find yourself getting short of breath, take a break.
I find it’s usually in the first trimester that women overdo exercise. There are two reasons for this phenomenon:
- i. They are trying to hurry to get in shape.
- ii. They aren’t showing enough to be reminded that they need to use moderation.
You need to understand that the first trimester is critical to the development of your baby. Your body is doing extra work to make that beautiful little boy or girl. When you are pushing it, you’re actually overexerting your developing baby, too. If you’re tired, take a nap. Doctor’s orders!
- Warm up and cool down properly when exercising. Start slowly each time you work out. The warm up can be just as beneficial as the actual workout session.
Stretching and breathing prior to starting your exercise regimen can help increase O2 (oxygen) to the lungs and muscles and can help you relax, preparing your body and mind. Put some love into your warm up and increase the effectiveness of the workout.
- Don’t lie on your back. There’s a reason the back of the table props up in your doctor’s office and why the nurse will put a pillow behind your back.
If you lie flat on your back for a few minutes or more during the later months of the pregnancy (after about twenty-fourth [24th] week), you may start to feel light-headed, dizzy, and possibly breathless. That’s because your growing baby is putting pressure on one of your major blood vessels called the vena cava. The vena cava lies on the right side of your body. During pregnancy your enlarged uterus also naturally leans toward your right side (as it moves up and out of the pelvis after twelve  weeks). This can make the vena cava blood vessel prone to becoming compressed while lying on your back. Learn to lie on your side, preferably your left side so you uterus is moved away from your vena cava.
10. Include the dad whenever possible. Pregnancy isn’t an individual sport. It took two of you to get into this condition and getting out of it is best when it’s a team event.
I always urge dads to get involved with your walks or other physical activities a couple of times a week over all forty weeks. Every coach your significant other has ever heard of goes to all of the practices and workouts. There’s no coach around who would ever think to just show up for the main event. It’s a terrific opportunity to share communication and motivation.
“I always urge dads to get involved with your walks or other physical activities a couple of times a week over all forty weeks.”
11. Listen to your body. Pace yourself. If you work a full eight hour day, adapt your workouts. If need be, some days limit your activity to just your stretches if that’s what your body is telling you.
If your body tells you to stop exercising completely, though, you probably misunderstood. Ask it to repeat itself and listen more carefully. Rest now and then, but keep working out for your own good and for the good of your baby.
12. Stretch before working out. Slow, steady stretching will help muscles stay loose and flexible. This is important at all times, but especially when you’re pregnant. Along with improving flexibility, stretching will allow your body to relax and unwind after a tough day, while warming up your muscles. Stretching at the end of your workout will also improve your flexibility.
13. Watch for swelling. Or edema (sometimes known as dropsy or hydropsy). Edema is the increase of interstitial fluid in any organ. If you notice swelling of your ankles or fingers, for example, that last after you’ve finished cooling down at the end of your work out, you’ll need to make some modifications to your regimen.
What are obvious signs of swelling? Your rings are too tight or your socks leave an indentation around your ankle. As soon as you get home after any sort of workout, elevate your feet.
If the expectant dad is available, put him to work rubbing your feet to flush pooling blood. Give him the, “It’s for the baby,” routine. It works every time in my house.