It is often overlooked that pregnancy is one of the greatest physical challenges for the human body. The many physical demands and changes are too numerous to discuss here.
However, several are obvious: weight gain or loss, nausea, vomiting, increased cardiovascular requirements, increased nutritional requirements, fatigue and sleep disturbances. In other words, pregnancy is an epic and amazing endurance race for nine months.
There are a few simple rules to follow that might ease the strain:
The first rule is the simplest and most important: Listen to your body. Your body is pretty good at telling you what to do (and not do) by providing you positive and negative reinforcement. Just pay attention to all the clues - or symptoms.
They come in many different forms, such as contractions, back pain, nausea, shortness of breath and fatigue. Rarely will you get in trouble if you just pay attention to what your body is telling you.
The second rule: Weight gain is a good and necessary outcome of pregnancy. The recommended weight gain for most pregnancies is between 20 and 25 pounds. These pounds are vital.
However, this is more of a guideline. Some patients need to gain less weight and other patients a little bit more weight. Ultimately, the critical measure of success is if the baby is gaining weight properly. As long as the baby is growing, the mother's weight gain becomes secondary. Your physician will monitor your progress during each visit, and will let you know if you need to make any changes.
Rule No. 3: Exercising during pregnancy is important. Pregnancy is not the time to start an exercise program, increase your exercise program, or change your program. Low impact, mild to moderate exercise for most patients is sufficient. Walking, light running, cycling, and time in a pool are all good.
Exercise enables moms to maintain cardiovascular fitness, musculoskeletal flexibility, and physical strength - all important for a successful labor and delivery experience. Patients who are very active and fit when pregnancy begins can continue at a higher level of activity, but they will also eventually need to cut back on the quantity and quality of their workouts as the pregnancy dictates.
However, whatever your exercise regimen, remember to pay attention to rule number one.
Rule four: Get your sleep. Americans, whether pregnant or not, should get seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Sleep during pregnancy, especially in the third trimester, can be a real challenge, so you need to do your best. Sleep is vital time for maternal recuperation and pregnancy growth.
While pregnancy is one of the greatest physical and mental challenges, embrace the wonderful journey as much as you can. And remember, there is no race that has a greater trophy at the finish line.
Gregory Miller, MD, FACOG, is a board-certified OB-GYN with Beaufort Memorial Obstetrics & Gynecology Specialists and sees patients in Bluffton and Beaufort. A former military physician at Naval Hospital Camp LeJeune, he is also experienced in all types of gynecological surgery, including daVinci robot-assisted procedures.