Pregnant women often suffer from back aches, swollen ankles and lack of energy—the glowing side effects of lugging another human being around inside their body.
There’s so much information about what a pregnant woman can’t do, or what she should avoid, but you’d be surprised just how much a pregnant body can handle. No matter how active a woman is before she is pregnant, exercising during pregnancy is a great way to combat fatigue and back aches. Simply taking the dog for a walk or even weight training (with a doctor’s permission) is not only allowed but recommended.
Prenatal yoga may sound like something only celebrities do, but it’s actually a very fitting exercise class for pregnant women. Yoga poses relieve lower back pain and the breathing exercises help women relax and focus, much like a Lamaze class. Stacey Vann teaches prenatal yoga at Abhaya Yoga Center. She’s not only a teacher, but has been a student—being a mother of five.
“It’s my love,” Vann said of teaching the classes. “Prenatal yoga releases tension in the hips, helps relieve lower back pain and helps women get better sleep. It’s also a wonderful opportunity for women to come together who are pregnant.”
Yoga also improves digestion and tones and strengthens muscles. Poses in the prenatal classes replicate laboring poses to prepare women for the birth of their baby.
Vann doesn’t just call out poses. Her classes are somewhat of a hybrid support group for pregnant women. She is happy to dole out advice for first time mothers since she knows the importance of cabbage leaves and can answer questions such as “What is the ring of fire?”—topics only pregnant women want to know.
“I can tell them what to expect and be there to listen,” Vann said.
Upon request, Vann will also serve as a labor doula, which is someone who provides non-medical support to women and their families from pregnancy to the postpartum period.
“I basically mother the mother,” Vann said. “As a doula, you’re continuous labor support.”
Vann started teaching prenatal yoga in 1998 in Naperville, Ill.
“It was right around the ‘Ray of Light’ Madonna, when people thought yoga was a fad, but it’s not, it’s here to stay,” Vann said.
No yoga experience is required—Vann sees many women attend prenatal yoga and continue yoga classes after they have given birth. Yoga classes come full circle when mothers bring their babies and toddlers in for yoga classes, which Vann teaches as well.
“The focus of these children is not that of the average child,” Vann said. “They can sit and be still.”
For women who may want a higher-impact workout, they can call on Soldiers of Fitness Pensacola to help them customize a workout routine that keeps the mother healthy while still providing nutrition to her baby.
Fred Malpica is the owner of Soldiers of Fitness. He may not know what it’s like to give birth, but he is a licensed practical nurse as well as a certified personal trainer.
Malpica trains women in the comfort of their own home and customizes workout plans according to their medical history and doctor’s orders. Malpica isn’t too tough of a soldier—he still believes pregnant women should be pampered—but he does feel expectant mothers are capable of cardio, weight-training and more.
“Stress is not always bad—exercise is a stress and birth is a tremendous workout,” Malpica said.
Like yoga, even inactive women can start training for two.
“Women should not be afraid to be active, even if they weren’t exercising before,” Malpica said.
The benefits of a regular fitness routine are endless and some of those benefits are even more crucial for pregnant women. According to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, working out for 30 minutes a day throughout the week can: help reduce backaches, constipation, bloating and swelling, prevent or treat gestational diabetes, increase energy levels, improve moods, improve posture, promote muscle tone and strength, help women sleep better as well as making it easier for women to get back in shape after the baby is born.
Malpica referenced Carmen Bott’s “Training the Pregnant Athlete, Part 1: A Summary of the Research,” saying that active pregnant women find a 35 percent decrease in the need for pain relief, 75 percent decrease in maternal exhaustion, 50 percent decrease in the need to artificially rupture membranes and 75 percent decrease in the need for operative intervention such as cesarean section.
“If they can stay active until birth, they’ll be more prepared,” he said. “A sedimentary woman will be more at risk for fatigue and may want more medications during labor.”
Malpica’s workout plan will contain most of the things you’d expect from a personal trainer: resistance training, cardio, elliptical, stationary bicycle and light to moderate dumbbells—“just enough to keep metabolic tissue.”
The program is geared toward women who want more impact in their workout.
“Women in their 20s will get bored with water aerobics,” Malpica said. “They don’t want to lift foam dumbbells.”
No matter if women choose the New-Age yoga class or a boot camp program fit for a soldier, any activity is better than no activity at all. And, of course, with a doctor’s blessing you can choose which routine is best for you.
“It is shown that women who exercise are better prepared for birth—the body will be ready to utilize its resources,” Malpica said.
ABHAYA YOGA CENTER
415A N. Tarragona St.
SOLDIERS OF FITNESS