ACOG releases new guidelines for exercise during pregnancy
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has released a bold new statement about the importance of exercise during pregnancy by offering updated recommendations for moms-to-be and their doctors.
“Regular physical activity during pregnancy improves or maintains physical fitness, helps with weight management, reduces the risk of gestational diabetes in obese women, and enhances psychologic well-being,” the Committee on Obstetric Practice opinion reads. “An exercise program that leads to an eventual goal of moderate-intensity exercise for at least 20–30 minutes per day on most or all days of the week should be developed with the patient and adjusted as medically indicated.”
Released in December (and replacing the prior guidelines that dated all the back to January 2002,) the newest recommendations from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists are as follows:
Physical activity in pregnancy.
– Physical activity in pregnancy has minimal risks and has been shown to benefit most women, although some modification to exercise routines may be necessary because of normal anatomic and physiologic changes and fetal requirements.
– A thorough clinical evaluation should be conducted before recommending an exercise program to ensure that a patient does not have a medical reason to avoid exercise.
– Women with uncomplicated pregnancies should be encouraged to engage in aerobic and strength-conditioning exercises before, during, and after pregnancy.
– Ob-gyns should carefully evaluate women with medical or obstetric complications before making recommendations on physical activity participation during pregnancy. Although frequently prescribed, bed rest is only rarely indicated and, in most cases, allowing ambulation should be considered.
Regular physical activity during pregnancy.
– Regular physical activity during pregnancy improves or maintains physical fitness, helps with weight management, reduces the risk of gestational diabetes in obese women, and enhances psychologic well-being.
– Additional research is needed to study the effects of exercise on pregnancy-specific outcomes, and to clarify the most effective behavioral counseling methods and the optimal intensity and frequency of exercise. Similar work is needed to create an improved evidence base concerning the effects of occupational physical activity on maternal–fetal health.
Before beginning an exercise regimen, it’s important for pregnant women to check in with their doctors to get the green light, ACOG authors stress. Pregnant women who were sedentary before pregnancy should follow a more gradual progression of exercise. However, women who exercised regularly before pregnancy (and who have uncomplicated, healthy pregnancies) should be able to continue with high-intensity exercise programs, like running and aerobics, with no negative effects.
Examples of safe forms of exercise, according to the ACOG, include walking, swimming, stationary cycling and low-impact aerobics. Women with uncomplicated pregnancies who have permission from their doctors can also engage in the following: Modified yoga, modified pilates, running or jogging, racquet sports and strength training.
Even if your doctor gives you the go-ahead for exercise during pregnancy, there are some red flags to watch out for. ACOG recommendations stress you should discontinue exercise if you experience any of the following: Vaginal bleeding, regular painful contractions, amniotic fluid leakage, dizziness, labored breathing before you start, headache, chest pain, muscle weakness that affects balance and calf pain or swelling.
Maybe it’s because I choose to work out in the mornings when my local YMCA is mostly populated by older adults, but I regularly receive the side-eye from walkers as I’m running circles around them on the indoor track. Or, when I’m next to them on weight machines. Oh, did I mention that I’m 20 weeks pregnant? Yeah, then there’s that …
The thing is, I don’t really mind these reactions from people. (Plus, I haven’t gotten any rude or negative comments so far.) I get a kick out of peoples’ expressions as I’m dominating the track or the elliptical with a bulging belly. Running is just what I do — pregnant or not. I’m pumped that more specific, realistic guidelines are being supported by more organizations!