History of Pregnancy Fitness
It was not long ago that if you were expecting a baby, you were placed on near house arrest. In the delicate condition of “being with child,” you would not wish to be seen in public, let alone actually doing anything. If you did venture out in public, you did so in garments that were constructed with very tight corsets to hide your expanding abdomen. There was virtually no outlet for physical exertion or exercise.
This confinement was a drastic switch from the pre–Industrial Revolution days when pregnant women continued with their daily lives and activities until their babies were born. Then, after some recuperation time, they went back to their normal duties fairly quickly. Exercise was out of the question. Today, the exercise pendulum has swung the other way as research study after study has shown that fitness is an important part of pregnancy and the prenatal care a woman receives.
When talking to your doctor or midwife about exercise during your pregnancy, be sure to ask if they are familiar with the newest guidelines from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). This can be a useful learning tool for the both of you.
Research Opens Eyes
As women came out into society with their pregnant abdomens boldly going where none had gone before, they began to wonder if maintaining fitness during pregnancy was really a lost cause. The research was conducted and women slowly changed their thinking about fitness in pregnancy. More women maintained their previous fitness levels in pregnancy and more research was done. The majority of the research showed that fitness in pregnancy was extremely beneficial in nearly every capacity.
In 1985, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) released their first set of guidelines for pregnancy fitness. These original fitness guidelines were still quite restrictive, although definitely a step in the right direction. Up until this point, not many studies had been done, and the ACOG was erring on the side of caution. As time went by and more studies were completed, the rules for exercise in pregnancy became more lax. Women were able to get out and stay active throughout their pregnancies, and the practitioners were seeing that there was no harm being done to these women, their pregnancies, or their babies.
During the height of the fitness boom of the 1980s, pregnant women wanted to take part, too. With ACOG's guidelines out, they now had something to back them up and so they continued to exercise during pregnancy. The guidelines have since been updated numerous times, each time becoming more lenient. The most recent ACOG guidelines were published in January 2002, suggesting that “an accumulation of 30 minutes or more of moderate exercise a day should occur on most, if not all, days of the week.”
If you exercise during pregnancy, you will tend to have a much faster recovery after childbirth. You will also gain less weight and lose what weight you do gain more quickly than your non-exercising counterparts. Studies also show that you will have a decrease in the length of your labor if you've taken the time to get fit prior to childbirth.
According to ACOG, in absence of either medical or obstetric complications, pregnant women can also adopt this recommendation:
“Given the potential risks, albeit rare, thorough clinical evaluation of each pregnant woman should be conducted before recommending an exercise program. In the absence of complications, pregnant women should be encouraged to engage in regular, moderate intensity physical activity to continue to derive the same associated health benefits during their pregnancies as they did prior to their pregnancies.”
The Green Light
These days, it is not uncommon to see pregnant women exercising everywhere. You will find them in aerobics class. Perhaps you have seen them lifting weights at the gym. They are swimming at the pool. The good news is that pregnancy fitness has obvious health benefits to mom and baby for both short-term and long-term outcomes.
As it stands today, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that pregnant women exercise for 30 minutes or more, nearly every day of the week, though exercising every day is not a problem. So, get out and get fit!