In the good old days, pregnant women were encouraged to relax, exert as little energy as possible and eat to gain weight because they were “eating for two”. This has given pregnant women the excuse to indulge any, and all, of their cravings and allowed healthy lifestyle rules to fall by the wayside.
The women of 1983 were typically of normal weight, or underweight, with a mere 24% of women starting their pregnancy overweight. This statistic had drastically changed by 2015, with 49% of women in America being overweight pre-pregnancy, and the statistic continues to move in this downward spiral.
The mind-set produced in the past, of eat more and do less during pregnancy, has stuck through each generation—but now it is time to change the idea of what’s best for a pregnant woman and her baby.
Today women are gaining more weight during pregnancy than is recommended; the acceptable weight gain range for underweight women is 25 to 35 pounds, overweight women is 15 to 25 pounds and obese women should gain a measly 11 to 20 pounds during pregnancy. However, the relaxed dieting and exercise rules for pregnant women results in women far exceeding these numbers.
There are only 47% of women who begin their pregnancy at a healthy weight in America, with 4% underweight and 49% overweight. These statistics are incredibly alarming and a shift needs to happen in order to ensure the future generations are healthy.
Obesity fuels obesity—an overweight mother has a higher risk of birthing an overweight baby, and the mother’s lifestyle choices will shape the way the child lives which results in overweight children who become obese adults. Unfortunately, this creates the chain reaction for all generations to come.
Old rules must be broken. There have been numerous tests performed which prove that exercise is safe during pregnancy and, with the alarming rise in obesity, doctors urge more exercise for pregnant women. A test study, where 2,500 healthy-weight pregnant women exercised during pregnancy, was performed and the results proved that these women and babies were healthy and none of the babies were born pre-term or underweight.
On the other hand, women who are obese during pregnancy have a greater risk of macrosomia. Macrosomia is a condition where a baby is born more than 8 pounds and 13 ounces. Other risks of obesity during pregnancy include: gestational diabetes; stillbirth; miscarriage; emergency Caesarean-section due to complications; and strain on the lower-back. Exercising during pregnancy significantly lowers all of the aforementioned risks.
This does not mean that pregnant women must partake in high-intensity workouts 6 days a week. It is recommended for pregnant women to perform 20 to 30 minutes of low-intensity exercise most days of the week. It is important that a pregnant woman does not become dehydrated while working out or get the heart rate up too high—which puts stress on the body and the baby. Therefore, pregnant women should participate in activities such as: walking; lifting light weights; cycling; swimming and other moderate aerobic and strength training exercises.
Contact sports are not advisable due to the high risk of injury to the mother and baby. The level of intensity will vary from individual to individual, based on their pre-pregnancy fitness level, but the general rule of thumb is: if you can talk during the exercise, it is safe for pregnant women to perform.
The 9 months of pregnancy is the ideal time-frame to focus on health and fitness because a mother will be motivated by the drive to be a positive role model for the child, which will result in a healthy baby and a healthy adult. It is of vital importance to teach and practice healthy habits from a young age because it is incredibly difficult to break bad habits as an adult.