Historically, there were various socio-cultural reasons to encourage reduction of exercise for pregnant women. Such cultural reasons seek to reduce physical activity and working by pregnant women. There were believes that such the involvement of women in exercises and work could result into early pregnancy loss, or reduced placental circulation. Women were thus advised to reduce their involvement in activities such as jogging or cycling and to limit their heart rate.
However, much change has been witnessed both in the attitude and guidelines on exercise during pregnancy. While the knowledge on exercise physiology is still incomplete, much research has been done on the benefits and risks of exercising during pregnancy. As a result this has come with much specific guidelines on which its success lies. Currently, most authors have thus agreed that the need for exercise by pregnant women can never be neglected.
Barakat, R., Starling, R., & Lucia, A. (2008). Does exercise training during pregnancy affect gestation age? A randomized controlled trial. An international peer reviewed journal of sports and exercise medicine. Vol. 42, 8, p 674-678.
In their study, the scholars noted the controversy that exists over the association between the physical exercise and safety in pregnancy. Their study was aimed at determining the possible cause-effect relationship between regular exercise during the second and third trimester of pregnancy by previously sedentary, healthy gestation age at the moment of delivery (Barakat et al 2008 p. 674).
In their methodology, they used the women with singleton gestation for both the research and control experiment. They found out that there were no significant differences between the two categories to have a potential influence on the gestation period (Barakat et al 2008, p. 675). Women were separated using such factors as age, number of hours they could stand standing. They concluded that, previously sedentary healthy woman with single gestation could safely engage in moderate, supervised exercise programs until the end of gestation because it has no effect on the gestation age (Barakat et al 2008, p. 378).
Hugo discusses both the benefits of body sculpting training during pregnancy and rules of safety. His work was based on the findings of the past researches that suggest that there is much benefits both to the mother and the and to the future of the new born (Rivera Hugo, 2011, P. 1). He is therefore for the opinion that the adjustment of exercise during pregnancy is vital. However, he warns that the major goal of such exercise should be to maintain ones initial level of fitness and not to improve (Rivera Hugo, 2011, P. 1).
He identified several advantages of exercise during pregnancy. These include fastening of the process of recovery after delivery, increase in the sense of well being and self esteem both during and after pregnancy (Rivera Hugo, 2011, P. 1). Exercise also increases the size of the placenta which results into an increase nutrient base for the baby. It also decreases the risk of excessive gaining of weight by reducing the amount of fat storage. Exercise reduces the chances of the occurrence of the lower back pain and boosts the mother’s energy level. Exercise also prepares the body for labor and delivery processes (Rivera Hugo, 2011, P. 1).
Hugo noted that the amount of exercise that a specific mother involves herself in should be directly related to how active the mother was before pregnancy (Rivera Hugo, 2011, P. 2). A mother who was never used to exercising should therefore not involve herself intense physical activities such as weight training programs. According to him this may cause stress which would be very dangerous to the mother and the body (Rivera Hugo, 2011, P. 1).
He therefore recommended that one who is exercising for the first time should only spend duration of between 20 and 30 minutes. She should begin with simple activities such as walking at her normal pace. Walking provides one of the normal and safest forms of exercise and will help the mother not to loose her body balance (Rivera Hugo, 2011, P. 1). This prevents the mother from falling which can be fatal for both the mother and the baby. A beginner should thus avoid vigorous activities such as a dance and kickboxing. According to him, the mothers heart beat rate should not exceed 140 beats per unit during pregnancy. The mother should therefore walk at the normal pace (Rivera Hugo, 2011, P. 1).
Hugo also noted that the body temperature of the mother should never exceed 38 degrees Celsius. To ensure such a low temperature, one can besides walking at a normal pace ensure that he chose a place that is neither hot nor humid(Rivera Hugo, 2011, P. 2). One can therefore walk in the morning hours or late in the afternoon. The clothing should also be carefully chosen to avoid warm clothing. It is also advisable to use the non motorized model where the mother is the one to set the pace.
Paiger in his contribution noted that exercise is necessary to boost the mother’s mood and give more energy to her while giving the baby a healthy life. He stressed the need for the consultation of a doctor to clear her for any kind of exercise (Waehner Paige, 2010, p. 1). He noted that each woman’s situation should be treated as unique. According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists the beginners should take 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week. According to him, women would also have an upper hand if they choose activities that they enjoy (Waehner Paige. 2010, p. 1).
He added to Hugo’s option of walking, other activities such as swimming, cycling and aerobics as necessary during pregnancy. Swimming enables the mother to get a total body workout while being supported by the water. Cycling while ensuring she maintains the balance. One can use a stationery bike or recumbent bike. Aerobics can be in the form of water aerobics or low-impact cardio classes (Waehner Paige. 2010, p. 1). He also advices that in whatever activity one chooses, it is important for them to first warm up with an easy pace for at least 5 minutes then work at a moderate pace for a few convenient minutes. The time can then gradually be increased. He noted that a break from exercise is necessary whenever a pregnant mother experiences sickness, exhaustion or achy (Waehner Paige. 2010, p. 1). During such moments the mother should resort to what feels right for her body.
Contributing on strength training, he stressed that a lighter weight is necessary. According to him, mothers should also carefully monitor their form to adapt to the changes in their centre of gravity. He also recommended that during the second trimester the mother should avoid supine positions like bench presses or crunches. She should instead employ more use of easily controlled machine (Waehner Paige. 2010, p. 1).
She wrote about Prenatal Health Safety. She noted the need for women to consult with the doctor before beginning any exercise and incases of signs of any health complication. Such condition include respiratory condition, diabetes, hypertension, history of premature labor and incase the mother has any physical impairment (Eden Elizabeth, 2006, p. 1).
She discussed appropriate clothing for pregnant women. She recommended loose-fittings during the excise. The materials chosen should be able to keep away moisture to enable the mother to remain dry and cool (Eden Elizabeth, 2006, p. 1). Mothers should also wear a good support bra which maximizes comfort and minimizes bouncing during the exercise. A part from bra, pregnant women should wear appropriate shoes. The shoes should be able to provide the mother with the necessary arch supports, heel cushioning and appropriate lateral support (Eden Elizabeth, 2006, p. 1).
Eden also gave contribution on how to make exercise safe and effective for the mother. She noted that each woman should strive to know when they are either under-working or over- working their heart (Eden Elizabeth, 2006, p. 1). According to her, all these situations should be avoided. Under working of the heart denies a woman an ability to build endurance while overworking it may lead to dizziness, nausea or even fainting (Eden Elizabeth, 2006, p. 1). Commenting on the nutrition requirements, Eden advised that during pregnancy there diet should be rich in carbohydrates. The mother should also take much fluid before during and after the exercise (Eden Elizabeth, 2006, p. 1).
Directions for future research
Barakat and her colleagues revealed the controversy that has arisen on the amount of physical exercise that is necessary during the second trimester of the pregnancy. Some scholars are opposed to activities that require prolonged standing and carrying of heavy loads. They say that such activities might result in to preterm delivery or low birth weight. They in turn propose more sedentary activities like office staff (Barakat et al, 2008 p. 674). Most scholars are still of the opinion that the physical activity during pregnancy is beneficial to both the mother and the fetus to prevent maternal disorders such as hypertension.
They however note that the effect of physical exercise during the entire period of pregnancy and its outcome is a long and complicated issue which still requires more research. Lucia remarked that studies on large population samples have failed to show any link between physical activity during pregnancy and the pregnancy outcome. This was especially after her study of the possibility of a linkage between gestation ages, risk of preterm delivery, intrauterine growth (Barakat et al, 2008 p. 674).
Another issue for more research is whether there should really be standard recommended exercise duration during pregnancy. Some scholars have argued that the duration of the exercise session should be determined by the daily feeling by each mother (Sorace Paul, 2020). The proponents of this argument have noted that during the first trimester fatigue is very common with the beginning of the formation of the baby’s form. They recommended a reduction in exercise activities at this stage of pregnancy. With the energy levels said to be different with each trimester, more research needs to be done on the recommended level of exercise at each stage (Sorace Paul, 2020).
Practical implications of the research
Practically, every mother has a role to understand the need to exercise in order to maintain both her health and fitness. The mother’s actions during pregnancy can therefore result into much benefits or bring her complications. The first issue that calls for action is that of weight before, during and after pregnancy. Excess weight gain and failure to loose it six months postpartum are indicators of long term obesity. This may result from lack of enough exercise during the pregnancy period (Sorace Paul, 2020, p.1).
The second issue concerns the risks that accompany exercise. This requires that a woman seeks an approval from a physician before starting an exercise program (Sorace Paul, 2020, p. 1). The risks that require the intervention of the physician include; low blood pressure (hypoglycemia), fatigue, and muscoskeletal injuries. Other forms of risk may be hyperthermia and decrease in flow of blood into the uterus which put the baby at risk. Any of this signs therefore requires the mother to stop exercising and follow the recommended guidelines for exercise mode, frequency, intensity and duration (Sorace Paul, 2020, p. 1).
Other exercise warning signs during pregnancy include; vaginal bleeding, dizziness, headache, chest pain, muscle weakness, swellings, preterm labor, decreased fetal movement. Others are shortness of breath prior to the exercise and the leakage of the amniotic fluid. Women who have cardiac disease or a restrictive lung disease may also not be able to exercise (Sorace Paul, 2020, p.1).
The popular exercise modes for pregnant women are walking, stationery cycling and swimming. Women should also use up to moderate weights. This should be done repeatedly to help maintain their muscle function. Women who were not initially participated in resistance training should also weight until postpartum to begin (Sorace Paul, 2020, p. 1). They should not be engaged in activities such as basketball and racquet sports. Such activities may cause excess strain the muscles and increase the risk to the baby. Therefore all such high impact activities should be avoided noting that the ligaments and joints become more lax and mobile during pregnancy (Sorace Paul, 2020, p. 1).
During the second trimester, any back leaning should be avoided. At this stage the baby increase in weight faster and subsequently causing the increase in the mother’s weight. The third trimester is accompanied by alterations in the mother’s centre of gravity and balance which requires that she limits her involvement in aerobic exercise. The recommended activities during this trimester are walking and swimming (Sorace Paul, 2020, p. 1). The mothers should also be weary of their exercise intensity. It increases blood flow to the muscles which could in turn decrease the blood flow the baby. This results into less oxygen available to the baby.
Another area of the practical implication of this research is in the nutrition requirements. Sorace has noted that each mother exercising during pregnancy should take an additional of at least 300 calories per day (Sorace Paul, 2020, p. 1). This will ensure the mother has an additional energy required and the normal growth of the body. The food should be rich in carbohydrates and accompanied with much fluids before during and after the exercise.
From this study, excise is widely recommended amongst the doctors and the scholars. There are many benefits which come with excise during pregnancy. Even previously inactive women can safely engage in exercise program after being cleared by a doctor. However, the women must learn to follow the recommended guidelines to ensure the effectiveness of the exercise in maintaining health and fitness while minimizing exercise risks.
The level of exercise requirement differs with each trimester of pregnancy. The first stage when the child acquires the form is accompanied by fatigue and requires that one reduce the level of involvement in exercising. This differs with other trimesters. The success of exercise therefore depends on the knowledge level of the mother and thus need for doctor consultation.