Frequently Asked Questions On How to Keep in Shape During Pregnancy

Frequently Asked Questions On How to Keep in Shape During Pregnancy

There are some frequently asked questions which I would like to take this opportunity to answer.

Will regular exercise make childbirth easier?

To answer this question with "yes" requires no more than common sense according to Dr. Clayton Thomas. "If you could separate all the people on the earth into those who exercise and those who do not, who do you think would be the healthiest and have the easiest time having babies? It would be a paradox if a sedentary person had fewer problems. I know of no evidence that exercise is harmful in pregnancy". 


fit pregnant woman


I compete in women's athletics. Now I am pregnant, how will this affect my abilities? Should I discontinue my competition altogether?

Noticeable changes in athletic performance first show up at the end of the third month. Most mothers gain only about three pounds the first trimester, but in the second trimeter, the uterus expands twenty times, and a woman will gain about ten pounds. The extra weight, protruding stomach, a loss of balance, the effects of water retention and anemia, may simply make competition effort too complicated. Even the well-trained athlete may find it difficult to do her best at this point.

Because of the deterioration of performance, most athletes give up competition, but not exercise, by the third month, although a woman who is used to competition and heavy training could safely compete beyond this time. Physicians get a bit alarmed when they hear of these efforts and recommend that athletes not compete too far into pregnancy, stopping by the sixth month. But, there is no hard evidence that competition during pregnancy is harmful, and a woman should judge by the way she feels when it is time to quit. 

Will having a baby ruin my athletic ability? 

Consider the number of women who have broken world records and won prizes in major competitions, it is hard to understand how people still believe the myth that having a baby will ruin an athlete. For example, Madeliene Manning won a gold medal in the 800 meters in the 1968 Olympics, then got married and had a baby. In 1972 she broke own record in the Games that year. Then, there is professional tennis star Margaret Court. In 1971, when Court announced that she was leaving the tennis circuit until after the birth of her first child, most followers thought she was through for good. The next year following the birth of her baby, she won twenty-three out of twenty-six tournaments and over $200,000 to become one of the highest female money winners of all time

Exactly what is a miscarriage? Is there danger of a miscarriage if I compete in vigorous sports?

A miscarriage means that the fetus is born before it is capable of surviving outside of a mother's body. The majority of miscarriages occur during the second or third month of pregnancy while a small number carry through to the seventh month. In microscopic examinations of miscarried embryos and fetuses, more than 80% reveal a deformity or biological malfunction that would make it impossible for the baby to survive and live a normal life. A miscarriage, in most instances, should be considered one of nature's own built-in check valves.

There is very little danger of miscarriage from vigorous sport activity, especially if you are accustomed to that activity. Why? Because the fetus is well-cushioned. It floats in a sac of fluid that works like a shock absorber. Therefore, you cannot jiggle a baby loose by running, jumping, or horseback riding. Nor can you harm it by swimming. Very strong stomach blows or falls in the eighth or ninth month might start labour contractions prematurely, so physicians advise against vigorous sports or contact sports toward the end of pregnancy.

What kind of program should I follow after my baby is born?

Unless your physician advises you otherwise, or barring unusual complications, you may begin simple exercise while you are in the hospital. Try to do it daily, once or twice at first, with gradual increases in repetitions. I would suggest these exercises for the first week:

Leg raise and tuck. Lie flat on your back. Keeping your left leg straight, raise your right foot off the bed about six inches. Now bend your right knee smoothly, then straighten, and lower. Do the same with left leg.

I recommend the squat, pelvic raise, calf raise, and negative-accentuated sit-up. You should do them daily with gradual increases in repetitions for the next two weeks.

By the end of the third week, you may begin some light walking and add the barbell or Nautilus machine to your routine.

After another week, four weeks after the baby was born, you should be ready to get back into your previous routine: resistance exercises every other day, with brisk walking in between.

The average woman spends six weeks resting up before getting back into a routine. Most well-conditioned women are able to start training in four weeks, and usually no more than six.

Does every woman get stretch marks? What can I do about them?

Stretch marks, which often appear on the breasts and abdomen during pregnancies, are due to the tearing of elastic tissues in the skin that accompanies enlargement of the breasts, distention of the abdomen, and deposition of subcutaneous fat. They are pink of purplish-red lines during pregnancy. The lines become a permanent grayish-white scarlike marks after delivery. Some women never develop stretch marks despite bearing several children; others lose most of the tone of their skin after one pregnancy (evidently there is an inherited factor involved). Stretch marks cannot be considered evidence that a woman has borne a child, however, because they are seen on women who have not been pregnant.

Once you get stretch marks, there is nothing you can do about them. You might help to prevent them by being sure that you do not gain excessive amounts of body fat and that you adhere to a well-balanced diet.


stretch mark


How are varicose veins related to pregnancy?

Varicose veins are bulging, twisted, and knotted veins that are usually located right under the skin. While they frequently occur in pregnant women, they also appear in other women and men as well. Most often they develop in the legs, although they can pop out other places like the anal area (hemorrhoids) and the genital area. Their presence is due to two factors. One, many pregnancies contribute to a generally weakened condition of the veins in the legs if the pressure created by the baby cuts off some of the circulation. Two, varicose veins can be inherited. In such a case, the individual probably inherited a tendency toward inelasticity in the wall veins. 

In both instances, however, the results are the same: there is a weakness or malfunction within the flaplike valves of the vein. As the weight of the blood on the blood on the vein wall increases, the vein bulges, and after long stretching, it loses its elasticity and finally becomes elongated, twisted, and knotted. 

Will exercises help varicose veins?

Yes. Any type of contracting or pumping of the leg muscles helps to literally milk the blood out of the calves and thighs and propel it upward toward the heart. Brisk walking is a good exercises, and calf raises and squats are even better. Everyone can benefit by maintaining good muscle tone in the thigh and calf muscles. The strong, firm muscles around deep veins help provide external support and help protect them from over-stretching and damage.

Can varicose veins be prevented?

If you have inherited a tendency toward varicose veins, you probably will not be able to prevent them. The following measures though will help to minimize them:

  1. Don't stand for long periods. If you must, wear lightweight support stockings. When standing on the bus, at your job, or at the kitchen sink, flex your toes every few minutes and then rise slowly on your tiptoes.
  2. Don't sit for long periods, especially with your legs crossed. When sitting, elevate your legs or change their position. On long train plane, or bus trips walk about every half hour. On long car trips, switch drivers frequently or stop for light exercise every hour if possible.
  3. Avoid tight garments that constrict your legs: girdles, garters, and knee-high stockings. High boots with elastic around the top are especially bad.
  4. Keep your body weight within a normal range.

Are there other precautions I should take to prevent varicose veins from getting worse?

Yes, in addition to the ones listed above:

  1. Wear support stockings. They counteract the pressure of the blood against the vein walls.
  2. Elevate your legs at least twice a day for thirty minutes. Use one or two pillows under your calves so that your legs are above the level of your heart. be sure your knees are bent.
  3. Be careful to avoid bumping, bruising, or scratching your legs since phlebitis may result.
  4. Prevent skin infections on the feet and legs' they could cause serious complications. This is particularly true if you are a diabetic. Wash your feet daily, making sure you get between the toes. After bathing, apply lanolin or baby oil if you have dry skin. If your feet perspire, apply a non-medicated talcum powder. Be sure to get them between your toes.
  5. Take long walks and exercise regularly. When you walk briskly (wearing support stockings), the muscles in your legs milk the veins, aiding the return of blood to the heart.


Exercise during your pregnancy can help you and your baby be healthier. A sensible exercise program can also help with the problem of varicose veins. Although it cannot cure varicose veins, it can certainly help them. By following the above suggestions, you will not only keep in shape during pregnancy, you will be in better shape after the pregnancy!



Darden, E. "How to Keep in Shape During Pregnancy". Especially for Women, Leisure Pressure, 1977, 135-138.

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