Efforts to prove old wives’ tales wrong have finally come through: Mothers-to-be can safely maintain an active lifestyle and engage in strength training while pregnant. In the past, any heavy physical exertion was discouraged, as it was feared to be a cause of maternal injury, miscarriage or preterm delivery. However, doctors and fitness experts today actually promote weight training among risk-free and healthy pregnant women as part of maintaining their level of fitness, preparing them for the stress of labor and childbirth, and improving their emotional and mental well-being. Below are the specific perks of weight training during pregnancy:
Controls weight gain
It is important to consider that there will be a significant gain in weight during pregnancy. In fact, appropriate weight gain can be considered as a sign of a progressive and healthy gestation. However, if diet and exercise were not part of a mother’s pre-pregnancy lifestyle, there is a great chance she will gain excess weight, which could contribute to the development of pregnancy complications such as hypertension and diabetes.
This is where weight training comes in. While weight training during pregnancy is not used for weight reduction, it does keep the weight gain of an expectant mother at an acceptable level. The appropriate weight gain of a pregnant woman will vary – it will depend on her pre-pregnancy weight, her weight and height proportion, and her diet. Her OB-GYN and a dietician can help determine what an acceptable gain is.
Reduces discomforts associated with pregnancy
Lower back pains and leg cramps are some of the most common complaints pregnant women have. However, mothers-to-be who do strength training do not get bothered by these. Weight training, like the name suggests, puts importance on proper posture and improved weight bearing techniques. These techniques put the pressure off the spine, relieving the woman of her back pains. It also keeps the weight off her legs, minimizing the occurrence of varicose veins and leg cramps. This is because weight training focuses largely on strengthening the woman’s core – that is, her spine and abdominal muscles.
In addition to this, research has also found how weight training and exercises relieves pregnancy-related migraines and even constipation.
Boosts mother’s energy levels
It isn’t called strength training for nothing. During pregnancy, a woman’s energy remains low because of hormones and the stresses of having to carry a rapidly growing baby in her womb and combating discomfort that come with pregnancy. There literally will be days when she won’t have the energy to get out of bed. Weight training, which involves a lot of lifting and resistance exercises, increases the energy levels of an expectant mother to help her go about her day.
Weight training during pregnancy boosts a mother’s energy levels more than any stimulant can. It may have something to do with how the body adjusts to increased metabolism that it is subjected to during exercise, but it the explanation may be closer to the fact that exercise causes a demand for more oxygen within the cells. More oxygen promotes better blood circulation, which can be manifested by an overall feeling of strength and positivity.
Development of larger placenta
Weight training and pregnancy exercises contributes greatly to a larger placenta, the organ that develops during pregnancy and is responsible for transporting nutrients to the fetus and filtering and protecting the baby from toxins and wastes from the mother’s circulation. During weight training, the mother’s body gets rid of carbon dioxide and takes in more oxygen, two processes that enhance placental growth. A sufficiently sized placenta is crucial to the growth of the fetus. It ensures a good oxygen supply as well as adequate nutritional absorption for the baby.
Promotes faster and easier labor
Labor and childbirth are physically exhausting, no matter what type of delivery the woman undergoes. Abdominal and pelvic muscles and structures go through a lot of stretching and pulling, which can be traumatic if they have never been exposed to such exertion. Weight training gradually allows muscles commonly affected to gain strength and stamina as well as elasticity. This type of exercise also increases the woman’s tolerance to pain, making labor easier to go through. Strong abdominal and pelvic muscles allow for faster labor as contractions become more effective.
Hastens postpartum healing
Muscles that are constantly used and stretched heal faster because of increased blood circulation and better cellular response to trauma. Mothers who practice weight training prenatally also find that getting their pre-baby figure back is easier and quicker.
Weight training is a great way to strengthen muscles during pregnancy and prevent discomforts caused by weakened musculature. However, like with any strenuous activity, it is best to consult with your doctor prior to engaging in a weight training regimen.
Skinny Mom Fact: Despite the widespread rumors that say pregnant women need to gain all the weight they can in order to birth a healthy baby, the truth is that most women will only need an extra 300 calories per day. That’s equivalent to about one serving of yogurt and half a bagel.