These will be included in any good prenatal class. Check with your doctor or public health nurse for the location of the nearest classes. It is often easier to stay motivated in a group of pregnant women.
Yoga classes offer excellent stretching exercises, breathing and relaxation practice. In yoga classes, most experts advise avoiding inverted positions, such as the head stand and the plough, and other positions such as the bow or back bend. Your yoga teacher will usually advise you during class.
If there are no stretching or yoga classes in your area, you can easily teach yourself a good stretching routine, using books or videos.
A good stretching routine would include the whole body, with a special emphasis on thigh stretching, abdominal strengthening, and pelvic tilting. The whole set of stretches should be done daily.
Women just starting vigorous or aerobic exercises should choose one that is enjoyable, practical, easy to do and requires little equipment. Exercising outdoors provides the added benefits of fresh air and sunshine.
Walking is highly recommended for aerobic exercise and can be continued throughout your pregnancy and for the rest of your life. Swimming is also an excellent choice. The water cushions your joints and alleviates the stress of weight bearing. Cycling, dancing, and no-bounce aerobics are also good choices.
During pregnancy, there is a generalized loosening of joints and ligaments in your body. This loosening prepares you for the passage of your baby through the pelvis during birth. However, this fact may also make you more susceptible to injury. To prevent any chance of injury, five minutes of warm up exercises must precede any aerobic exercise and five minutes of cool down exercises must follow it.
Other physical changes due to pregnancy include increased breathlessness because your lungs aren't expanding as efficiently due to an increasingly restricted chest space. Your blood volume also increases by 30 to 50 percent and your heart may beat up to 15 more beats per minute. You will have to adjust your exercise routine to avoid breathlessness or elevation of heart rate.
All women doing aerobic exercises, whether experienced or not, will have to modify their exercises somewhat during pregnancy.
Certain abdominal exercises must be avoided during pregnancy, (especially if the midline abdominal muscles are separated) such as double leg raising, straight leg sit-ups or scissors. Any exercise which exaggerates the hollow of the lower back should also be avoided. If the midline abdominal muscles have separated, special exercises can be done to tone these muscles and to prevent further separation. If in doubt about any particular exercise check with your instructor or doctor.
Whether with strenuous exercise or stretching exercises, it is important to be aware of your body at all times. Pay close attention to what your body is telling you. If it hurts, stop. Pregnancy is no time to push yourself. Go at your own pace and don't compare yourself to anyone else.
Avoid exercising in hot humid weather or when you are sick with a fever. Make sure you drink lots of fluids before and after exercise to prevent dehydration. Also make sure you wear a good exercise bra and well padded running shoes.
Some doctors discourage any sport that jars the body, especially during the first three months, but there is no scientific evidence to support this.
Specific Exercises For The Child-bearing Years
These should be done daily and in fact throughout the entire span of your reproductive years.
Top priority are Kegel exercises that strengthen the pelvic floor. They are named after Dr. Arnold Kegel, an obstetrician who devised these exercises to prevent the need for surgery for urinary incontinence.
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