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Prenatal Care: Physical Activity and Mental/Emotional Health

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  • 0:01 Physical Activity…
  • 1:48 How Much Exercise Do I Need?
  • 3:06 Mental & Emotional Health
  • 5:07 Lesson Summary
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Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

In this lesson, you'll learn about the importance of physical, mental, and emotional health during pregnancy and how they can impact a pregnant woman and the unborn child.

Physical Activity During Pregnancy

Which of the following is not an actual benefit of exercise during pregnancy?

  • Prevention of too much weight gain
  • An increase in strength and stamina
  • Stress relief
  • Better sleep
  • An increase in mood and energy levels

So, which one is not a benefit of physical activity during pregnancy? Well, it was sort of a trick question. All of them are benefits!

You may think that just because someone is pregnant they should just become a couch potato. After all, they are caring for two, eating for two, walking for two and the list goes on. But exercise is just as healthy and important of a consideration during prenatal care as diet is!

Let's try another question. Which of the following has a higher chance of occurring in pregnant women who don't exercise compared to those that do?

  • Gestational diabetes
  • Postpartum depression
  • High blood pressure
  • Blood clots

Another trick question. The answer is, again, all of them have a higher chance of occurring in women who don't exercise during pregnancy.

Pregnant women who don't move around much, especially if they are on long trips, like on an airplane, have an increased risk of developing dangerous blood clots.

Exercise helps to lessen the symptoms of postpartum, or after giving birth, depression, and lower the chance of developing gestational diabetes, where gestation means pregnancy, and gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes (high blood sugar) that may develop in previously non-diabetic pregnant women.

There are many dangers associated with gestational diabetes, including the development of type 2 diabetes later in life for the mother, as well as low blood sugar and larger than normal birth sizes in babies.

How Much Exercise Do I Need?

So, the benefits of exercise during the prenatal period are pretty clear.

But how much exercise should healthy pregnant women get then? Do you think it's:

  • No more than 15 minutes of walking per day
  • At least 3 hours of heavy weight lifting per day
  • No more than 8 hours a month of walking
  • At the very least 2.5 hours of moderate intensity aerobic activity per week

The right answer is at least 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week. This means things like brisk walking are just fine, and the risks on the mother or baby from such activity are very low. Other types of exercise can include walking, riding a stationary bike, or even swimming.

It's best to spread this exercise time throughout the week, include most, if not all, days of the week, and do it for no less than ten minutes at a time.

Of course, there have to be some caveats, as with everything in life. If you have pre-existing medical conditions, like high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and lung problems, or you haven't exercised in a long time, you'll definitely want to consult with a doctor as to your specific exercise needs during pregnancy.

Mental and Emotional Health

Exercise also improves mental health. But there are other ways women can bolster mood during pregnancy if the need arises.

Good emotional health is a state of well-being where a person has a positive outlook, good self-esteem and the ability to interact well with others. It often ties in with good mental health, a combination of psychological, social, and emotional well-being.

It is completely normal, within reason, for pregnant women to have emotional and mental ups and downs. I mean, pregnancy is a life-altering event, and there is a lot to be proud of and worry over. The chemical changes in the body during pregnancy play their part as well, not to mention the physical aspect involving morning sickness!

However, too much stress and too much anxiety can lead to a bad mood and an imbalance of hormones in a pregnant woman's body that may have a detrimental effect on her and her child. In serious cases, a ton of stress has been suspected in miscarriages in the past.

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