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Almost all women can and should be physically active during pregnancy. Talk to your doctor first, particularly if you have high blood pressure, diabetes, anemia, bleeding, or other disorders, or if you are obese or underweight.
Whether or not you were active before you were pregnant, ask your doctor about a level of exercise that is safe for you. Aim to do at least 30 minutes of a moderate activity (one that makes you breathe harder but does not overwork or overheat you) on most days of the week.
Regular, moderate physical activity during pregnancy may:
- Help you and your baby to gain the proper amounts of weight
- Reduce the discomforts of pregnancy such as backaches, leg cramps, constipation, bloating, and swelling
- Improve your mood, energy level, and feelings about the way you look
- Strengthen your muscles and improve your blood flow
- Improve your sleep
- Help you have an easier, shorter labor
- Help you to recover from delivery and return to a healthy weight faster.
Follow these safety precautions while being active during your pregnancy:
- Choose moderate activities that are unlikely to injure you, such as walking, aqua aerobics, swimming, yoga, or using a stationary bike.
- Stop exercising when you start to feel tired, and never exercise until you are exhausted or overheated.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Wear comfortable clothing that fits well and supports and protects your breasts.
- Stop exercising if you feel dizzy, short of breath, pain in your back, swelling, numbness, sick to your stomach, or if your heart is beating too fast or at an uneven rate.
What physical activities should I avoid during pregnancy?
- For your health and safety, and for the health of your baby, there are certain physical activities that you should not do while you are pregnant. Some are listed below. Talk to your doctor about other physical activities that you should avoid during your pregnancy.
- Avoid being active outside during hot weather.
- Avoid steam rooms, hot tubs, and saunas.
- Avoid physical activities, such as certain yoga poses, that call for you to lie flat on your back after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
- Avoid contact sports such as football and boxing, and other activities that might injure.
- Avoid activities that make you jump or change directions quickly such as tennis or basketball. During pregnancy, your joints loosen and you are more likely to hurt yourself when doing these activities.
Tips for getting physically active
Get physically active for your health and the health of your baby by using the tips below:
- Go for a walk around the block or through a shopping mall with your spouse or a friend.
- Sign up for a prenatal yoga or fitness class. Make sure you let the instructor know that you are pregnant before beginning.
- Rent or buy an exercise video for pregnant women. Look for videos at your video store, doctor’s office, hospital, or maternity clothing store.
- At your gym, sign up for a session with a fitness trainer who knows about physical activity during pregnancy.
- Get up and move around at least once an hour if you sit in a chair most of the day; get up and move around during commercials when watching TV.
Following healthy eating and physical activity habits after your baby is born may help you return to a healthy weight more quickly, provide you with good nutrition (which you especially need if you are breastfeeding), and give you the energy you need. You can also be a good role model for your growing child. After your baby is born:
- Continue eating well. Eat a variety of foods from the five food groups. If you are not breastfeeding, you will need about 300 fewer calories per day than you did while you were pregnant.
- If you are breastfeeding, you will need to eat about 200 more calories a day than you did while you were pregnant. Breastfeeding may help you return to a healthy weight more easily because it requires a great deal of energy. Breastfeeding can also protect your baby from illnesses such as ear infections, colds, and allergies, and may help lower your risk for breast and ovarian cancer.
- When you feel able and your doctor says it is safe, slowly get back to your routine of regular,
moderate physical activity. Wait for 4 to 6 weeks after you have your baby to begin doing higher levels of physical activity. Doing physical activity that is too hard, too soon after delivery, can slow your healing process.
- Regular, moderate physical activity will not affect your milk supply if you are breastfeeding.
- Return to a healthy weight gradually. Lose no more than 1 pound per week through a sound eating plan and regular physical activity after you deliver your baby.
After you deliver your baby, your health will be better if you try to return to a healthy weight. Not losing weight after your baby is born may lead to overweight or obesity later in life, which may lead to health problems. Talk to your doctor about reaching a weight that is healthy for you.
Be good to yourself
Pregnancy and the time after you deliver your baby can be wonderful, exciting, emotional, stressful, and tiring, all at once. Experiencing this whirlwind of feelings may cause you to overeat, not eat enough, or lose your drive and energy. Being good to yourself can help you to cope with your feelings and to follow eating and physical activity habits for a healthy pregnancy, a healthy baby, and a healthy family after delivery. Here are some ideas for being good to yourself:
- Try to get enough sleep.
- Rent a funny movie and laugh.
- Take pleasure in the miracles of pregnancy and birth.
- Invite people whose company you enjoy to visit your new family member.
- Explore groups that you and your newborn can join, such as “new moms” groups or make friends with other new moms.