How Exercise During Pregnancy Helps Postpartum Recovery
Understand how exercise during pregnancy can help with childbirth and ultimately with postpartum recovery. Learn the benefits of prenatal exercise and the risks associated with exercise during high risk pregnancies.
This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.
If you are pregnant and just not sure if exercising with a growing baby inside of you is a good idea, I’m here to tell you something important – really, really important. The simple answer to your question is, “YES”!
Exercise during pregnancy is a FABULOUS idea. Probably one of the best decisions you will make for yourself during pregnancy.
But I know that’s not convincing enough for you. You are probably wondering: why is exercise so important and how does it really help make my postpartum recovery smoother?
In this article you learn exactly how fitness during pregnancy translates to quicker postpartum healing. What new mom doesn’t want that?!
Is It Recommended To Exercise While Pregnant?
First off, let’s understand from the professionals what their recommendation is for prenatal fitness.
“Pregnant women should get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week. At this level, you should still be able to talk, but not sing. Divide the 150 minutes up however you like. You could do 30 minutes of exercise 5 times a week. Or you could do 10-minute increments several times a day on most days.” –FamilyDoctor.org
Now that you know that it is highly recommended to exercise during pregnancy and that you are safe to perform physical activity while pregnant, I want to get another big myth busted and out in the open.
Will Jumping and Running Harm My Baby While Exercising?
A lot of pregnant women want to know if jumping exercises such as running can harm their baby?
The answer to this is, “No”. There is no research that concludes running or jumping types of exercises will harm your baby as long as your pregnancy has not been labeled as a high risk pregnancy.
“For those with uncomplicated pregnancies, experts say there’s no harm in maintaining your exercise routine; running won’t cause miscarriage or hurt the baby. The baby is pretty isolated and protected during pregnancy. –Runners World
There are definitely more benefits than risks to running and other forms of exercise during pregnancy.
What Are The Benefits To Exercising While Pregnant?
There are many pros to exercising while pregnant as described in this post by familydoctor.org:
- Helps to maintain healthy weight
- Decreases back pain
- Alleviates constipation
- Fitness levels improve, thus energy levels improve
- Helps to shorten the length of labor and delivery
- Weight loss postpartum is easier
Lamaze talks about the following benefits of exercise:
- Mental well-being
- Better sleep
- Physical benefits—healthy weight gain and feeling stronger
The Mayo Clinic describes the benefits as:
- Reduce backaches, constipation, bloating and swelling
- Boost your mood and energy levels
- Improves sleep
- Prevent excess weight gain
- Promote muscle tone, strength and endurance
“Exercise throughout pregnancy—at least 20 to 30 minutes a day on most or all days—is recommended by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Doing so reduces the risk of gestational diabetes, pre-term birth, pre-eclampsia (pregnancy-induced high blood pressure), having a baby with high birth weight, and the need for a cesarean section. It may also improve your baby’s brain development.” –Runners World
Risks To Exercise While Pregnant
There is always a risk to exercise no matter if you are pregnant or not. I want to make sure you are fully aware of the risk for exercising while pregnant, but I want to let you know that the pros far outweigh the cons. Don’t let this list deter you from your health and fitness goals.
-Risk of injury such as an ankle sprain or a back injury
-Overexertion by not knowing your body’s limits or not knowing how to monitor your own heart rate.
-Pre-term labor if you are a high risk pregnancy
How Does Fitness During Pregnancy Actually Help During Postpartum Recovery?
It all starts with the third trimester. If you are physically fit leading up to the 3rd trimester, then I would say you are going to have amazing results with your postpartum recovery.
Someone who can sustain a physically active lifestyle all the way through the first and second trimester is most likely to be determined enough to try to stay as active as they can through the third trimester.
This type of woman might slow down a bit as her belly continues to get heavier, but her mindset is determined and driven to stay the course and live that healthy lifestyle all the way through pregnancy and into postpartum.
This type of person has built up so much stamina and muscle bulk that even if she was to maintain a gentle, low impact exercise routine during her 3rd trimester, she would be well prepared for childbirth.
And this is the key to success: being fully prepared physically to the best of your ability before delivery day.
Going into childbirth, there are lots of unknowns and lots of demands – demands on the mom. She needs to push, she needs to breathe and she needs to not give up.
Just like a workout, childbirth has high demands on your body to outperform what you normally do in your everyday life.
If you are strong leading up to childbirth, you are more likely to have an easier delivery, less likely to have tearing, complications, c-sections or any other major side effects from childbirth.
You are setting yourself up for success with childbirth, but then that also correlates to success with immediate postpartum recovery.
Having a successful childbirth with little to no complications will allow you to have less pain, and therefore, feel better sooner. This will allow you to get up and move around after delivery more confidently.
Let’s look at it another way. If you went into childbirth weak, fatigued and short of breath due to rapid breathing from the pain you may be having, then what do you think the rest of the delivery will look like? It’s going to be heightened even more.
But if you could go into delivery feeling strong, energized, determined and focused on controlled breathing just like you do during your workouts, then it’s only going to be easier. You’re well prepared and well primed for a successful childbirth.
Now that you have made it through childbirth and realized all the internal strength that you possessed through the entire process, you’re probably feeling a huge sense of accomplishment.
You just gave birth to your baby! You did it, and you did it well. You had perseverance, you had power and you gave it your all. Your body worked hard, but your body was trained well.
You might not be as sore as you would have been if you had never worked out during your pregnancy.
Your body has enough strength remaining to get up and go to the bathroom for the first time.
And your body feels better than you expected so now you can get up and hold your baby longer.
Doesn’t that sound nice?!
So you did great in the hospital, and your body wasn’t as achy as you thought it would have been after giving birth. But now it’s time to get up and really move around because you are going home. You have a little longer distance to walk and may even have to climb the stairs to get to your bedroom.
Do you have confidence in your leg muscles to push through? I know if you have been doing your squats all pregnancy, then stairs should come easily now that you lost some of the baby weight.
These scenarios continue to occur during various times of our day as a new mom. We need strength to carry our baby from room to room. We need endurance to rock our baby for hours upon hours. We need good stamina and postural control while nursing our baby 8-12 times a day.
This all comes easier when we have a good base to start with during postpartum. Your muscles will recover faster if you worked out during pregnancy. Your energy levels peak faster if you exercised during pregnancy, and you will feel more motivated to get back into your fitness routine now that your goal is to lose the baby weight. The sooner you lose the baby weight, the better you will feel overall about yourself, physically and mentally.
Start working out now, commit to a routine and have a goal in mind.
To get you started, I recommend working out 15 minutes a day for 3 days a week. This is not an overwhelming amount of time in your week and should be manageable. The hardest part is getting started and finding the right time of the day to commit. Treat it like it’s a scheduled doctor’s appointment. There’s no way you would cancel on your doctor, so don’t cancel on yourself and your workout.
To help you stay accountable, I encourage you to join my FAB in 15 accountability group for moms. There’s no pressure, and we encourage you to workout 3 days a week for 15 min or less a day. This may be a great way to help you get started and stick to a routine.
I recommend you consult your doctor if you are beginning to workout for the first time ever in your life or if you are beginning to workout for the first time during pregnancy. Both scenarios need to be addressed with your doctor so he/she is aware of your lifestyle change.
One of my favorites exercises to do during pregnancy are squats because they can be done throughout all trimesters and are great for childbirth. Continue reading my list of 14 prenatal exercises to find out what other prenatal exercises I highly recommend as a physical therapist.
This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.
**It is important to always consult your doctor before beginning any exercise program and get medical clearance. Always warm up thoroughly and stretch after all workouts. LiveCoreStrong.com and Jena Bradley will be not be responsible or liable for any injury sustained while exercising at home, gym or elsewhere. Perform exercises at your own risk.
About Dr. Jena Bradley
Jena is a mom of 4 darling little girls, a physical therapist and founder of Live Core Strong, a blog focusing on motivating moms to live a life that incorporates fitness and fun throughout their motherhood journey. She aims to be the friend you always wanted to have who could guide you through the “fog” when faced with an “I don’t know what to do” mommy moment. At the most inconvenient time of her life, she embarked on a journey of sharing her story and expertise to inspire the next generation of healthy moms. You can learn more about Jena by visitng her ABOUT page.