Exercise throughout pregnancy can keep you fit and help ensure your baby grows optimally. Even though the scientific evidence is insufficient to support exercise as a natural method of labor induction, it's possible that getting moving will move things along. When performed safely, exercise late in pregnancy can help to ensure your body is in the best shape possible for labor and delivery. Talk to your health care provider before beginning any exercise program during pregnancy.
Fit for Delivery
Healthy women should aim for 2 1/2 hours of moderately intense exercise each week throughout pregnancy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Opt for invigorating walks and low-impact, moderate-intensity aerobic exercise such as yoga, stationary bicycling or swimming. Aim for at least 10 minutes of activity at a time.
While exercise in the final weeks of pregnancy can help keep your body fit and better prepared for the hard work ahead, now isn’t the time to begin a grueling workout regimen if you’ve been sedentary throughout your pregnancy. Instead, speak to your health care provider and start slowly, incorporating just a few minutes of exercise at a time to help condition your body.
Prepare for Labor
Whether you're starting at the beginning or end of your pregnancy, certain exercises can help to keep ease pregnancy aches and prepare your body for labor. For example, Kegel exercises strengthen the pelvic floor, while pelvic tilts can relieve a backache and strengthen your abdominal muscles. On all fours with your back straight, pull in your abdominal muscles and arch your back, hold for a few seconds and then return to the starting position.
Squatting can help to open the pelvic outlet during labor, explains the American Pregnancy Association. Practice this exercise frequently to strengthen muscles. Ensure to support your back against a wall as you descend into each squat.
Give Labor a Nudge
Once your baby has dropped in your pelvis, walking can potentially help to promote the onset of labor because your baby's head applies pressure to your cervix as you move, explains the OBGYN North website. Standing also can potentially help to move pregnancy in the right direction as gravity may encourage your baby to move downward.
Another exercise that may work in a similar fashion is climbing stairs. However, take it slowly to avoid wearing yourself out, particularly if you haven't been power walking your way through pregnancy.
Whenever exercising during pregnancy, never exert yourself to the point of breathlessness or exhaustion because this signals that an insufficient oxygen supply is making its way through your body and to your baby.
Avoid exercise during the second and third trimesters that requires lying on your back as the weight of your uterus can restrict blood flow through the inferior vena cava, according to the KidsHealth website. Avoid straining your lower back muscles during weight-training exercises, and stay away from contact sports and activities that increase the risk of a fall, advises the American Pregnancy Association website. Be sure to keep up with fluid intake during exercise to avoid dehydration.