Overcome Myths Surrounding Exercising During Pregnancy

In the not-so-distant past, women were urged to cut down on or even avoid exercise during pregnancy. Today, we know something different. According to health officials, not only is it good to participate in fitness activities during pregnancy, but doing so can have a positive impact on both baby and mother. They maintain that women need to be physically active during pregnancy, because it has terrific benefits that are associated with a better pregnancy outcome and even shorter labour periods. Although health experts say there is truism in what is safe and what is not during pregnancy, the bad myth surrounding exercising during pregnancy is fuelled by old wives' tales or outdated advice, leaving many women ignorant of what they will benefit from exercising when pregnant. Exercise in pregnancy Some women will not be able to exercise during pregnancy because of specific conditions or complications. However, according to Dr Emmanuel Srofenyoh, an obstetric gynaecologist and Head of Clinical Service at the Ridge Hospital, women with normal pregnancy can exercise. Exercising, he says, should be done moderately and with medical advice. Some of these moderate exercises include walking, especially at dawn, and stretching. His assertion is confirmed by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists which recommends that healthy pregnant women should aim for 30 minutes of moderate activity, such as brisk walking, most days of the week. Dr Srofenyoh says he will encourage pregnant women to exercise but not vigorously “due to heavy load,” as it can be detrimental. He also encourages walking at the onset of labour, as according to him, this will help the baby to position itself well and descend better. Stretching helps promote blood flow during pregnancy and this, according to Dr Srofenyoh, is a win-win for baby and mother. Regulating blood flow, he says, helps to check the weight of the baby in the womb. Exercising gives less-chubby babies Studies have shown that babies born to mothers who exercise in late pregnancy may enter the world with a little less body fat. This is said to be good, since extra fat at birth could continue into childhood and beyond. Normally, a newborn's tiny body is mainly composed of the internal organs, bones and lean tissue, with most of the baby fat accumulating later, as the baby grows, so doctors say that could be a positive effect as long as it does not harm foetal growth and development. Exercise can reduce the amount of blood sugar that gets to the foetus, which cuts the risk of having a larger-than-normal baby. An expectant woman in Accra, Mrs Eugenia Asare-Tandoh, says she was not exercising before she became pregnant so she does not see the need to start now. Benefits Exercising during pregnancy helps relieves backaches and improves posture by strengthening and toning muscles in the expectant woman’s back, buttocks, and thighs. It also helps to reduce constipation by accelerating movement in the intestines. Exercising helps activate the lubricating fluid in your joints and helps prevent wear and tear on your joints which, according to doctors, become loosened during pregnancy due to normal hormonal changes. It also prepares the expectant woman and her body for the delivery process, as strong muscles and a fit heart can greatly ease labour and delivery. Gaining control over your breathing can help you manage pain. And in the event of a prolonged labour, increased endurance can really help. Exercising also helps the new mother regain her pre-pregnancy body and shape more quickly, as she will gain less weight while exercising during pregnancy. However, doctors advise expectant mothers not to expect or try to lose weight by exercising while pregnant. For most women, the goal is to maintain their fitness level throughout pregnancy. Mrs Shirley Okyere, a mother of three, says she was very active before she became pregnant. She, however, did not continue exercising as she could not get any expert advice on what to do. However, she says she did a lot of walking consciously while pregnant and that she believes, helped her to have normal and smooth deliveries. Advice Dr Srofenyoh advised women not to tightly tie a piece of cloth around their stomach, or use corset after delivery, as is the practice among most African women, with the intention of getting the stomack back to its normal size. This he said can cause complications. According to him, exercising was the sure way of getting away with the excess belly fat. He advised women who had done caesarian sections to exercise after three months when their wounds have healed.