Women who are used to working up a good sweat on the treadmill may have a false sense of their abilities after they become pregnant. Even if you’re the type to tear it up in your kickboxing class, you need to remember that your pregnant body is not the body you’ve come to know and love. It’s a whole new body with a whole new set of rules that apply to it and it’s important you follow those rules in order to keep you and your baby safe until delivery.
Exercise is recommended for most pregnant women. In addition to helping with morning sickness and decreasing feelings of fatigue, consistent exercise has been shown to lead to easier deliveries and a lower chance of late pregnancy complications, such as gestational diabetes. Women who exercise throughout their pregnancy can also expect to bounce back after delivery in a shorter period of time and they’re more likely to lose pregnancy weight quickly, especially if they weren’t overweight when their pregnancy began.
That being said, it’s not uncommon for pregnant women (especially athletes) to push themselves too far during pregnancy. This is because the warning signs for overtraining are different in pregnancy than they are in the average women. Most women can exercise to the point of barely being able to catch their breath and they won’t suffer too many consequences. For pregnant women, however, the level of maximum intensity that their body (and baby) can handle is much lower and it’s important to pay attention to the signs that your body is giving you.
When a pregnant woman exercises at too high of an intensity level, her baby is affected. Sometimes the exercise interferes with the baby’s ability to receive enough oxygen or nutrition, which slows the growth of the baby and can lead to early deliver, low-birth weight, and learning disabilities in childhood. Additionally, periods of intense exercise during pregnancy are ill-timed because the body is continually changing for the sake of the baby. Muscles and ligaments that aren’t used to being so stretched or spaced apart can suffer serious injury if they are pushed too far through vigorous exercise.
If you’ve been training hard and you feel new pain, increased fatigue, or a lack of usual movement from the baby, you should see your doctor as quickly as possible so you can be evaluated for damage due to overtraining. If you and your baby are fine, you’ll still want to talk to your doctor about the appropriate level of intensity during this time in your life. Nine months may seem like a long time to go without a good workout, especially if you’ve been a serious athlete all your life, but once that baby is out and healthy you can jump right back into it! Just be sure to focus on the health and safety of the two of you for now.