Nurturing and protecting your growing bundle of joy during your first trimester doesn't mean staying inside and being afraid to move. Physical activity prepares your body for the marathon of pregnancy and labor. It can also help prevent the development of gestational diabetes and hypertension as well as reduce body pains associated with pregnancy.
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First Trimester Physiology
During the first trimester of pregnancy, your baby is developing at a rapid rate. In the first six weeks of pregnancy the embryo implants itself and the nervous system begins to develop. By week eight, your baby has a head and limbs and can begin to move. Finally, by the end of week 12, your tiny little person has grown fingernails. While all this is happening, you may begin to feel the first signs of pregnancy--morning sickness and fatigue. Though you may not feel up to exercise, it can offer you relief from the first trimester symptoms. Regular exercise offers a myriad of benefits to you, such as relief from the nausea of morning sickness and extreme fatigue.
Before you start an exercise program during pregnancy, always consult you physician first. While there is no proven link between regular, moderate exercise and miscarriage, your doctor may have certain guidelines for you to follow. When you gain medical clearance, you have a few things to consider before approaching exercise. First, you must take into account your current fitness level. If you exercised before you became pregnant, you may be able to continue your fitness program and change it as your pregnancy progresses. If you are just starting an exercise program, start out at a light intensity for a short duration and work up to accumulating 30 minutes each day.
Aerobic exercise is dynamic movement done in a rhythmic manner to increase your heart rate and challenge your muscles. During pregnancy this kind of exercise helps to increase your endurance and stamina, two aspects of fitness that can benefit you during the second and third trimesters and also during labor. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends participating in light to moderate intensity following how exercise feels to you and not monitoring your heart rate. Some of the best exercises to participate in during the first trimester of pregnancy are walking, swimming, jogging, biking or stair climbing, states the American Pregnancy Association.
Kegel exercises help strengthen the muscles surrounding the uterus. This can help ease you through labor as well as prevent some complications like bladder leakage and hemorrhoids. To perform a Kegel exercise, simply contract the muscles of your pelvic floor. This should feel as if you are stopping yourself from urinating. Hold for 10 seconds, then relax; continue to breathe while holding the position. Work on performing two to three sets of 10 to 15 repetitions.
Squats help strengthen your quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes. During labor, having the strength to squat may help open up your pelvic outlet, allowing the baby to descend. To perform a squat exercise, start with your fee shoulder-width apart. Begin by slowly lowering yourself down into a squatting position while keeping your back straight and your abs engaged. Then while exhaling, straighten yourself back up to the starting position. Perform one to three sets of 10 to 15 repetitions on non-consecutive days.
Wall slides are another exercise to help prepare your muscles for birth and to help with endurance during pregnancy. To do a wall slide, stand with your back against the wall with your feet shoulder width apart. Slowly slide your back down the wall so that your knees bend. This should look as if you are sitting in a chair. Keep your knees pointed forward and remember to breathe while you hold this position for about five seconds. Slowly slide yourself back up to the start and repeat. Do this exercise for one to three sets of 10 to 15 repetitions on non-consecutive days.
REFERENCES & RESOURCES
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Exercise During Pregnancy
- American Pregnancy Association; Top Recommended Exercises; October 2008
- ACSM's Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription; Mithcell H. Whaley, PhD, Peter H. Brubaker, Phd, Robert M. Otto, Phd (Eds.)
- KidsHealth: Exercising During Pregnancy
- Family Education; First Trimester Basics
- American Pregnancy Association: Miscarriage