Answered by Mary Valle on Monday, June 1, 2009
While there are no specific exercises that guarantee an easy pregnancy or childbirth, overall fitness before you conceive can help, says Michael Richman, M.D., an OB-GYN at Mercy Hospital in Baltimore. "Women who strengthen their back muscles and develop their abdominal muscles before getting pregnant, by running, sit-ups or using the stair climber, can have an easier time pushing during labor," says Dr. Richman. As for during pregnancy, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that any exercise prescription be "individualized and should include a health assessment." ACOG's basic pointers for pregnant women state that regular mild-to-moderate exercise (at least three times per week) is preferable to intermittent activity; supine positions—such as sit-ups—should be avoided after the first trimester; and women should be aware of the decreased oxygen available for aerobic exercise and the increased daily calorie requirements (about 300) that being pregnant warrants. ACOG also warns that certain conditions, such as pregnancy-induced hypertension or a history of preterm labor, can be exacerbated by exercise. If you are pregnant, always consult your doctor before starting or continuing an exercise routine.