Staying Fit While Pregnant
Three days before Nancy Karabaic's baby was born -- when most moms-to-be are
finding it tough enough just walking a couple of blocks -- Karabaic took a
3.5-mile run, because it felt good, she says.
"It was really important to me to stay fit and strong throughout my
pregnancy," says the 39-year-old personal trainer from Wheaton, Md.
"There's so little you can control when you're pregnant that at least you
can feel like you're doing your best to stay healthy. I felt it would make my
baby healthier, too."
So after talking over safe and reasonable guidelines with her midwife,
Karabaic continued to swim, bike, run and lift weights -- albeit at a lesser
intensity than she was used to -- throughout the nine months of her
To Karabaic, who delivered a healthy 7-pound, 6-ounce boy last January, the
benefits were clear.
"My health stayed really good, I felt better emotionally, and I still
felt like I looked good -- I had that healthy glow you get when you're
exercising and you're pregnant." She's also convinced her labor, delivery
and recovery were smoother because she was in such good shape.
The average pregnant woman won't be taking a three-mile jaunt, however, nor
should she. Still, recent studies on pregnant women like Karabaic are
shattering a lot of myths about the potential dangers of moderate-to-strenuous
exercise during pregnancy.
That's good news for women who have been fairly active before conceiving.
It's also reassuring news to those, even novices, who are concerned that
exercise might hurt them or their baby.
"Exercise is not a process that needs be eschewed or prevented during
pregnancy," says Dr. John Botti, director of maternal-fetal medicine at
Penn State Geisinger Health System, who studied the effects of exercise on
moderately conditioned pregnant women. "Reasonably performed exercise
doesn't appear to cause harm, and may, in fact, have benefits."
The key is finding a reasonable level, and that depends largely on the shape
you were in before, the activities your body was comfortable with, and your
health during pregnancy. Always check with your doctor or midwife first, but
here's food for thought for the novice and the enthusiast, as well as some
basic dos and don'ts.
The Novice: Walking and Water Spell R-E-L-I-E-F
"Only 20% to 30% of the population exercises on a regular basis, so the
typical pregnant woman hasn't exercised prior to pregnancy," says Bonnie
Berk, creator of MOTHERWELL, a pre- and postnatal fitness program offered
throughout the United States and abroad.
Still, it's not too late for pregnant women who haven't been consistent
exercisers to start now. Although hard data on the value of prenatal exercise
isn't as well-documented for unfit women as for fit ones, experts like Berk
have seen firsthand the difference that exercise can make, even for couch