Friday, March 22, 2013

Why try maintain exercise regime through 1st trimester

No matter how “easy” (I use this word in the relative sense) a pregnancy is, nearly all women have had at least some nasty side effects during the first trimester. I was one of the lucky ones in that I didn’t have to spend most of it hanging over the toilet bowl but I did feel “off” for most of the three months with occasional waves of nausea thrown in for good measure. Not to mention the insane tiredness. I had always thought women were exaggerating about this until I fell pregnant – and promptly found myself falling into bed at 9 pm every night!  

Even though I really wanted to keep up my exercise regime throughout my entire pregnancy, I found the motivation to get out and do something during the first trimester was at an all-time low. I never had problems with motivation before and was always one to enjoy training, skipping out the door with enthusiasm. All of a sudden I was taking the long-cut home so I wouldn’t have to drive past the gym and feel guilty, or deliberately misplacing one of my runners.

However, the fear of losing my fitness won over and drove me out the door and I discovered something really strange as the time went on. Even though I really didn’t want to go for a spin on my bike or to lift weights in the gym, once I got going at all I felt better. And even better then that I felt normal. The “off” feeling was kept at bay for the rest of the day. Strangely I wasn’t as tired either, managing to stay up until 10pm some nights post-exercise session! 

There is a more important reason for maintaining exercise during the first trimester, especially if you want to continue with your exercise right through pregnancy. One of the effects of exercising at this early stage is that it greatly stimulates the early growth of the placenta and the extent of its blood supply. These adaptations increase the capacity of the placenta above normal, allowing the baby to cope better with any stress, exercise induced or otherwise in later pregnancy. Exercise during this early stage also enhances other facets of the maternal adaptations to pregnancy, such as improving the ability to dissipate extra heat through increased sweating and breathing rate. These benefits provide a nice margin of safety which allows women to train harder later in the pregnancy when we generally feel more up for it. 

I’m a big believer in listening to your body when it comes to exercise and used this as my main guide when I was exercising throughout my pregnancy. However the first trimester is one case where the body needs a little gentle encouragement on some days or even a sharp kick in the backside to get going!

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