About AOA

The joys of motherhood are never fully experienced until all the children are in bed.
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Loving Your Pregnant Body

Loving Your Pregnant BodyDuring pregnancy, the changes your body goes through can be a bit overwhelming. Weight gain is only the beginning. Hormone fluctuations cause your uterus to expand, your breasts to swell, and your feet to enlarge, and sometimes cause your skin to break out. Many women also suffer increased fatigue and unusual food cravings.

During this time your body is doing remarkable work growing new life, but it’s normal to be excited about the baby and still feel a little anxious about these changes. There are, however, many things you can do to help deal with the changes, prepare for your labor and delivery, and get a jumpstart on reclaiming your body.

  • Focus on your baby. The changes in your body are a natural process that is helping your baby grow and develop.
  • Express your feelings to your partner, your family, and your AOA physician. Expressing your fears is much healthier than keeping them bottled up, and your doctor can help set your mind at ease about the changes your are experiencing.
  • Participate in enjoyable exercise. Daily walks that get you outside and in the fresh air are good for your health and your state of mind. A light swim can help get your mind off of your concerns.
  • Try some prenatal yoga, which can help you focus on the mind-body link, and give you a chance to share your experience with other pregnant women.
  • Practice self-massage, which will bring you more in touch with your body and help you in accepting the changes.
  • Learn as much as you can about pregnancy so that you are prepared for the changes you can expect as you move through the experience.
  • If you find that you are thinking negatively about your body image more than is healthy, tell your AOA doctor.

After your baby is born, your body will begin to adjust and return to a more familiar shape and size. However, don't expect a flat belly immediately after your delivery. As we addressed in last month’s newsletter, it isn’t just about whether you’ve lost that extra twenty pounds, it’s all about working with your body to strengthen your core, strengthen your pelvic floor, and help resolve any diastasis recti, or separation of abdominal muscles that occurred during your pregnancy.

Exercise both during and after pregnancy will help you stay on friendly terms with your body image. It is a great way to help you stay healthy during your pregnancy, ease the labor and delivery process, and regain your tone and shape after giving birth. Join a gym that offers childcare or load up your stroller and walk through the neighborhood. This will also help get you out of the house so you can feel refreshed.

Getting the OK

Before you begin an exercise program, make sure you have your AOA health care provider's OK. Although exercise during pregnancy is generally good for both mother and baby, you'll need to proceed with caution if you have a history of preterm labor or certain medical conditions, including:

  • Poorly controlled diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Placenta previa, a problem with the placenta that can cause excessive bleeding before or during delivery

Unless you have serious complications, sitting around during your pregnancy won’t help. You may feel more tired than usual, your back may ache, and your ankles may swell, but pregnancy is a great time to get active, even if you haven’t exercised in a while.

The Benefits

During pregnancy, exercise can:

  • Ease or prevent back pain and other discomforts
  • Boost your energy level
  • Prevent excess weight gain
  • Reduce the risk of gestational diabetes, pregnancy-related high blood pressure and postpartum depression
  • Increase stamina and muscle strength, which helps you prepare for labor

Pacing Yourself

For most pregnant women, at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise is recommended on most, if not all, days of the week — but even shorter or less frequent workouts can help you stay in shape and prepare for labor.

Walking is a great exercise for beginners. It provides moderate aerobic conditioning with minimal stress on your joints. Other good choices include swimming, rowing and cycling on a stationary bike. Strength training is OK, too, as long as you avoid lifting heavy weights.

If you haven't exercised for a while, begin with as little as five minutes of physical activity a day. Build up to 10 minutes, 15 minutes, and so on, until you reach at least 30 minutes a day. If you exercised before pregnancy, you can probably continue to work out at the same level while you're pregnant — as long as you're feeling comfortable and your AOA health care provider says it's OK.

In general, you should be able to carry on a conversation while you're exercising. If you can't speak normally while you're working out, you're probably pushing yourself too hard.

Remember to stretch before and after each workout. Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated, and be careful to avoid overheating. No matter how dedicated you are to being in shape, don't exercise to the point of exhaustion.

Listen to your body

As important as it is to exercise, it's also important to watch for danger signs. Stop exercising if you notice:

  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vaginal bleeding

If your signs and symptoms continue after you stop exercising, contact your AOA physician.

Exercising is the Healthy Choice

Regular exercise can help you cope with the physical changes of pregnancy, regain your shape and tone after delivery, and build stamina for the challenges ahead. If you haven't been exercising regularly, use pregnancy as your motivation to begin.

Learn more about pregnancy, exercise, and adapting to your changing body: