Exercise During Pregnancy


Is it safe for a woman to exercise while pregnant?  What are some of the benefits of exercise during  pregnancy?


Yes, exercise during pregnancy is safe.  Of course a pregnant woman should always check with her health care provider before starting a new program.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends at least 30 minutes of exercise a day.  A woman can start slowly, by beginning with 5 minutes a day and then build up to 10 minutes, 15 minutes, and so forth until she reaches the 30 minute goal.  If she is already active, she can continue to work out at the same level while pregnant as long as she feels physically comfortable.

A healthy exercise program can boost the energy level, help prevent back ache, strengthen muscles, and help reduce the risk of medical complications such as diabetes or hypertension.

Some activities to consider include walking, swimming, or spin cycling.  If the woman has already been a runner, she may continue during pregnancy but of course slow or stop if she becomes overly tired. Muscle building or strength training is ok to a point, but she should avoid lifting heavy weights.

Any activity that has a high risk of falling should be avoided.  The pregnant woman should not be involved in gymnastics, water or snow skiing, contact sports obviously, or scuba diving.

She should drink plenty of fluids and avoid working out in hot humid conditions to avoid overheating or becoming dehydrated.

She should stop exercising if she becomes dizzy, becomes short of breath, develops abdominal or chest pain, vaginal bleeding or fluid leaking.

After delivery, walking is a good way to become active again.  Once the woman is cleared by her provider, she may return to more strenuous activities.

Baby Sign Language

Can we teach our baby sign language?

Yes, it is possible to teach a young infant modified gestures from the American Sign Language.  As the child’s motor skills develop, studies have shown that babies may be able to communicate effectively using hand motion accompanied by eye contact. Using hand gestures a baby can communicate, often more than a year before they can speak.

You can start teaching your baby signs as early as 6 months.   Signing babies can communicate their needs instead of getting frustrated.

As you teach baby sign language, it’s important to continue talking to your infant. Spoken communication is still an important part of the young child’s speech development.  Teach signs for practical words like hungry, mommy, daddy, diaper, and sleepy-nap.

There are many books and videos, online information to teach parents these techniques.

The most important elements are:

  • Be patient
  • Continue speaking to baby
  • Make it a daily habit
  • Use signs to describe routine baby activities and common objects
  • Have fun, low pressure
  • Involve the other care-givers



Weight Gain in Pregnancy

How much weight should you gain during pregnancy?

The amount of weight that you will gain in pregnancy varies greatly.  Some weight gain is necessary just from the weight of the fetus, the placenta, the increased blood supply found in pregnancy, and etc.

A major factor is where your weight is before pregnancy, whether underweight or overweight.  It is very hard to come up with absolute numbers, numbers written in stone.  In general if the woman is underweight, she could gain from 28 to 40 lbs in total over the entire pregnancy.  A woman fortunate to be at a normal or ideal weight should look for perhaps 18 to 25 lbs gain total.  The overweight to obese woman may gain as little 11 lbs or as much as 25 lbs.

Most of the weight gain in a normal pregnancy is after 20 wks of gestation or after 4 ½ months.

Another important point is what is the weight gain made of? Is it a result of high calorie sweets converted to fats, or is it the result of fluid retention from pre-eclampsia or other medical conditions.

Excessive weight gain in pregnancy increases the chance of developing diabetes, hypertension, and delivery complications which would increase the possibility of cesarean delivery.  Too little weight gain may result in a small growth restricted infant or perhaps increased chance of pre-term labor.

As a general rule, if the mother eats a healthy diet consisting of high fiber, nutrition rich, and higher protein foods and engages in light to moderate exercise throughout the pregnancy, whatever amount she gains will be appropriate for her unique body.


What About Breastfeeding?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months.  After the introduction of solid foods they recommend continued breastfeeding for 1 yr or more.

Scientific research has shown many health benefits for the infant including, reduced colds, ear, and throat infections.  There may be less incidence of inflammatory bowel disorders, SIDS, childhood diabetes, or childhood leukemia.

Breast milk contains a perfect balance of nutrients for the infant and is free and available.

Another option is to express or pump the breasts to extract the milk and refrigerate or freeze it for later feedings.

However, it is not possible for all new mothers to breastfeed for any number of reasons. The mother may be ill after delivery, have a communicable disease, or have limited assistance at home with her new infant. She may need to return to work. She may have other children at home to take care of as well.

Realistically, it’s important that the baby get something to eat.  The child will still grow up and go to MIT or Harvard or the University of the Incarnate Word. So this new mother should not feel somehow that she has failed her child if she is not able to provide exclusive or combined breastfeeding.