Q&A: Is Exercising Important and Can It Be Dangerous During Pregnancy?

Exercising was always part of my lifestyle, but during the first trimester of each of my three pregnancies, I completely stopped working out. I was scared of hurting myself or the baby. However, during my second and third trimesters, I started doing very light movements and walked 2 to 3 times a week.

I met Pearl Maalouf during my last pregnancy, and she explained the importance and the dangers of working out during pregnancy.


1- Can you briefly describe your background:
“Hello! I have a degree in Biology and several different certifications in the health and fitness field. Before I even got any my certifications though, I was an avid outdoor enthusiast and exercised on my own for several years. I am also a new mom! My son turned one in July and I am proud to say that I exercised safely up until the day I gave birth. I lifted weights and did jump rope. I even climbed trees and did an obstacle course when I was in my third trimester!”


2- Does a pregnant woman need to exercise?
“I think ALL people need to exercise and prioritize their health like they do their family or career. So naturally I think it is not only a need, but a must for women to exercise before they get pregnant to prepare their bodies for all the changes during this amazing miraculous journey of creating life. Then, during their pregnancy, they should continue to exercise and be active so they can counteract some of the “side effects” of pregnancy like water retention, nausea, tiredness, cravings, back pain, and so on.”



3- What are the benefits of exercising during pregnancy?
“There are SO many benefits of exercise that it’s hard to know where to start. I will just touch on a few that I think are the most interesting.
a. You are less likely to gain weight: Working out keeps your mind in a health focused zone. If you’re proud of yourself for being active and healthy for your baby, you’re less likely to eat or crave unhealthy junk food.
b. You lower your risk of gestational diabetes: High blood sugar during pregnancy puts you at extremely high risk for developing type II diabetes in the decade after delivering, and raises the odds of preterm delivery or having an overweight baby. If you do develop it—because genetics and age play a significant role—exercise may help prevent or delay your need for insulin or other medications.
c. You have more energy and a better mood! Active moms-to-be stated better moods than their sedentary peers, both immediately following a workout and in general throughout their pregnancies. Even though it’s really hard sometimes to get off the couch or out of bed, the act of getting dressed and going to the gym, even if you’re not giving it 100% of your effort is enough to boost your mood!”


4- When is it considered dangerous to exercise during pregnancy?
“If you have never worked out in your life, or haven’t worked out before getting pregnant, I would definitely advise you to start very, very, very slowly, and only with the approval of your doctor; otherwise, it could potentially be dangerous to jump right into a workout routine when you’re already pregnant. If you have any other pre-existing or pregnancy related conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure, these conditions would require special care and guidance from a professional.
In general though, if you’re considered a low risk pregnancy and you have been working out consistently before getting pregnant, then you would mainly need to know what movements you should minimize or avoid during different times of your pregnancy. For example, you should avoid doing any exercises that require you to be laying down in your third trimester.”


5- Does a pregnant woman need a green light from her doctor to start exercising?
“If you have been exercising before you got pregnant then you should share this information with your doctor. If you are a low-risk pregnancy typically you should be fine to continue exercising in the same way you were before you got pregnant. However, there are some special circumstances that may prevent you from working out so it is always best to check with your doctor first.”


6- What are the best work-outs during pregnancy?
“As long as you are active, sweating, and getting your heart rate up then it’s probably a good workout!  I personally enjoyed more intense forms of exercise as that is what I was used to before becoming pregnant. It all depends on your skill level and what your body is used to doing.”


7- Finally what tips would you give a pregnant woman based on your experience?
a. “Exercise during pregnancy is not easy, it’s not always fun, and you really have to listen to your body to understand your limits. BUT exercise is the most empowering, healthy, and rejuvenating thing you can do during your pregnancy.
b. You are creating life inside your body, so it makes sense that you want your body to be the healthiest it can be. This should be your main reason to be active and to eat well during your pregnancy, not because you’re afraid of gaining weight. Having an unhealthy obsession over your weight can result in negative behaviors that may harm your unborn child.
c. There are a lot of pressures on mothers to look or act a certain way, and although I will always encourage my clients and friends to eat healthy and be active, I also understand that sometimes you just need to nap or eat a slice of pizza.  Your body is going through a lot of changes, and the last thing you need is to put undue pressure on yourself.”


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