When it comes to exercising in pregnancy, or even maintaining a disciplined diet irrespective of cravings and hormones, there are as many concerns as there are myths and old wives’ tale.
More education is therefore needed especially in this part of our world where a pregnant woman actively working out is mostly looked upon with not-so-positive emotions.
Knowledge truly empowers, and so this article will be providing knowledge and clarification as a few questions bordering on prenatal fitness and nutrition are answered.
Please note that any information or recommendation from one’s personal ObGyn/Doctor with a history of one’s condition supersedes any provided in this article, which even though accurate, are more generalized in nature.
Here are three prenatal fitness questions answered.
My feet are swollen. What could be the cause and how can I control it?
In pregnancy, there are a number of conditions responsible for swollen extremities, like the fingers, feet, ankles and face, especially the nose.
Some degree of swelling is considered normal due to pregnancy hormones, increased retention of bodily fluids, and the growing uterus putting additional pressure on some body organs leading to swelling.
If swelling is in excess or happens suddenly, it could be indicative of a more serious health condition like pre-eclampsia and high blood pressure, both of which are diagnosed and treated by your Doctor.
However, a clean diet devoid or low in foods that promote water retention (like ‘ponmo’ and foods high in sodium content especially processed and packaged ones), high in fibre, and drinking lots of water will reduce the effect of water retention, while regular physical activity will ensure fluid re-distribution around the body, especially in areas prone to retain fluids. So drink up, stay active and eat clean.
Personally, my feet tripled in size with my first pregnancy when I wasn’t disciplined, but remained the same by my second where I was applying knowledge and being disciplined.
I hear working out is not safe for both mother and baby, and that it also makes the baby come out too small? How true is that?
Exercising in pregnancy is very beneficial and in cases where a woman is experiencing an uneventful pregnancy, exercising should be encouraged.
However, as with many other lifestyle practices, pregnant women exercising must modify their workouts, both in intensity and duration.
For instance, where a non-pregnant woman can work out to the point of absolute exhaustion, even unable to make coherent sentences, an exercising pregnant woman must watch her heart rate and ensure that at every point in her pregnancy, she passes the ‘Talk test’, despite the slightly raised heart rate.
You cannot exceed your personal RPE, that is Rate of Perceived exertion, so listen to your body and stop before exertion.
This is why only prenatal workouts modified for a pregnant body are recommended, for a duration of 30 to 45mins with regular water breaks in between. With every precaution in place, exercising in pregnancy is safe.
Will exercising affect a baby’s size?
Yes, but only positively. Research has shown that women who work out regularly in pregnancy gain less, weigh less and deliver smaller healthier babies than those who didn’t.
Macrosomic babies (with a birth weight of over 4kg) were found more in non-exercising women, with its attendant birth risks.
This was my reality when I exercised regularly with my second pregnancy unlike my first, and while my first baby weighed 4.4kg and needed NICU intervention, my second weighed 3.8kg and was perfect.
What if I am already overweight/obese before conception, can I start exercising and dieting to lose weight safely in pregnancy?
No. The goal of fitness in pregnancy is not weight loss, it is more about helping you gain the right amount of weight slowly and spread evenly across the gestation period of 40weeks, and prepare your body for labour, delivery and ultimately to bounce back better.
The recommended weight gain for a singleton pregnancy is 12 – 15kg, but most women end up gaining far more because they believe they should ‘eat for two’, indulge every craving, and avoid an active lifestyle including workouts.
Some Doctors have been known to advise a few women to intentionally lose weight in pregnancy for health reasons especially if in the Class 2 or 3 obese category.
However, this is not a decision a woman takes arbitrarily on her own as any non-recommended weight loss program in pregnancy may affect the fetus adversely.
Instead, measures should be taken to ensure normal weight gain in pregnancy and then post-delivery, you can begin a weight loss program with fewer restrictions.
As a pregnant woman, you are responsible for not just yourself, but for your baby so must never act selfishly.
I hope this helps clear the air on a few issues regarding prenatal fitness.
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