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exercise during pregnancy - does it make childbirth easier or harder?

(27 Posts)
mckenzie Tue 25-Jan-05 12:31:28

I have my own theory that if you exercise regularly during pregnancy (by regularly I would envisage about 4 times a week, swimming, aerobics, running, gym workouts etc) it can make labour/childbirth harder but makes the recovery easier.

I'd love to hear whether in your own experiences you would agree or disagree with this.

motherinferior Tue 25-Jan-05 12:35:55

Don't know about that level of workout - pre-pregancy I swam a mile three times a week, but during it I was knackered and then painfully hampered with SPD; I do think that the mile-plus I walked (well, staggered slowly towards the end of it) four days a week in my second pregnancy MAY have contributed to my much swifter recovery, though.

lapsedrunner Tue 25-Jan-05 12:45:22

I was an avid runner for many years before having ds at age 40. I kept up running until 5 months pregnant then walked alot right upto birth. I ended up being induced early due to pre elcmpsia and the whole experince is one I would rather forget. Did I recover quicker? Don't know about general recovery, but in terms of running its as if someone turned a switch off, I just can't get back into it and ds is now 2.4! I used to feel fit and fairly young (for my age), now feel old, stiff and knackered!

beansontoast Tue 25-Jan-05 12:49:53

mmm tricky,
my experience makes me think that 'quite alot of walking' helped me endure labour and meant i had some strength in the first few weeks.

however my sofa dwelling and smoking friend had an equally easy time! go figure

morningpaper Tue 25-Jan-05 12:50:44

I think the mistake it to put the word 'childbirth' in any sentence which has the word 'easier' in it.

mckenzie Tue 25-Jan-05 12:59:10

good comment morningpaper!

Sallie Tue 25-Jan-05 13:06:21

I don't think exercise is linked to an easier labour although perhaps you have more stamina during labour and if you have done sport to a relatively high standard, then you learn about sports psychology which I found very handy whilst in labour. However, what I am convinced it helps with is the recovery after. During both my pregnancies I managed regular trips to the gym and bounced back very quickly both times after having uncomplicated labours and births. This time I have not had the luxury of time to get to the gym and am constantly beating myself up about it.
Finally, exercise at whatever level is good for you (as long as you stick to the rules about not over-stressing yourself when pregnant) and it certainly helps you to feel better about yourself and also sleep better.

Pidge Tue 25-Jan-05 13:53:50

Well, in theory since labour can be long and physically gruelling, if you're fit you're likely to have more stamina to cope with it. But I reckon that's only a very small part of the whole experience and being super fit has no impact on how painful or effective your contractions are, whether you dilate, or which way up the baby is, or what shape your pelvis is or generally how fast you get the baby out.

This came home to be clearly when one friend who is bionic woman (cycling, mountaineering, you name it) laboured for days and ended up with a CS, whilst another who is as unfit as they come popped out her first baby in about 5 hours with no pain relief at all.

So I reckon labour itself is a bit of a lottery. But I don't think being fit can hinder you - just it may not help as much as you think. Says she hopefully - I'm cycling 35-40 minutes twice a day, 3-4 days a week, now 35 weeks pregnant, so I certainly hope it's not going to make my life harder!

highlander Tue 25-Jan-05 16:44:11

I was running until 24 weeks and walking a lot with some kayaking thereafter. I had an elective CS and was up and about the same day. 4 days later I went on a 2 mile walk (unintentionally!). I was back in my jeans within 3 weeks.

I agree with Pidge - you can't forcast your labour, but I'm convinced a fit and healthy pregnancy translates into a speedy recovery.

mckenzie Tue 25-Jan-05 20:06:06

thanks all for the replies. I'm convinced that being fit helps with the after birth period, I know it did for me and you girls are confirming this. But I'm still leaning toward the thought that maybe the tight muscles created by regular exercise do hinder the actual delivery. Doing a small survey among my friends supports this theory but we are obviously only a very small group and it could all be coincidence.

I think even if I knew that doing regular exercise during the pregnancy could make my delivery harder I would still do it as I'd go mad without it and would suffer so much afterwards.
Although i had a rotten time delivering DS1 I recovered quickly and got back to normal figure wise fairly swiftly. Baby No 2 is due in 4weeks time and I'm still doing my running/training/swimming and enjoying every minute of it for now so in a way I hope my own theory is quite wrong!

Tipex Tue 25-Jan-05 20:34:04

McKenzie, i'm also 36 weeks and have done a similar regime to you all the way through, 4x weekly swim, gym etc. I cant comment on birth or post birth as this is my first but definately feel its helped me feel good during the pregnancy. Of course it helps not having existing children to look after, but I have had heaps of energy all the way through and little in the way of aches/pains really. I would imagine tho that if I ever have a number 2 i wont be able to find the time to keep this up.

ChicPea Tue 25-Jan-05 21:11:41

I am active, on the move/feet all the time, and like Highlander was up the next day and back into jeans 3 weeks later. I do not exercise per se though. However, a friend of mine did yoga 2-3 times per week and had a 6 hour labour for her first baby. The rest of her class all had relatively short labours too.

weeboagie Tue 25-Jan-05 21:52:39

difficult to say about the physical side of it but, mentally, I think exercise and feeling good about yourself is vital during pregnancy. I work in an office that is staffed mainly by women and it is easy to see the importance that mindset has in a good pregnancy. Of course, it's not always the case, and with the best will in the world, some folk will have aharder time than others. But I would definately say that those who remianed positive and fit and did not treat pregnancy and birth as an illness had a much better time of it.

I've only done it once but I exercised regularly throughout pregnancy - running, swimming, aerobics, walking - I had a 5 hour labour and used the birthing pool and gas and air and was back exercising about 3 weeks later. It still took time and the first time I ran, I thought my insides might fall out!!!.....but I am sure it helped me.

Tommy Tue 25-Jan-05 22:16:15

I exercised during my first pregnancy - yoga, swimming, ante-natal aerobics etc. Bloody awful labour and birth - induced, forceps etc. and in a lot of pain for weeks afterwards
2nd pregnancy - no exercise (except swimming 10 lengths of local pool at 9m and not being able to get out of the pool - scaring the life guard something rotten )- really easy birth, no pain relief and excellent recovery.
A good excuse not to do any exercise I think!

Frizbe Tue 25-Jan-05 22:17:10

I kept fit during my pregnancy and although it didn't stop me pileing on the weight still (give my body any excuse) I think it resulted in a quick labour (8 hrs start to finish, 4 clocked at the hospital) and a fairly quick recovery, although it did take me the full 9mths to get back into my old jeans, I blame that on breast feeding as once I stopped that, the weight fell off?!

highlander Tue 25-Jan-05 22:33:47

yikes - I didn't even see it was you who started the thread mckenzie!

best of luck for the delivery; can't believe you're nearly there already

Levanna Wed 26-Jan-05 01:51:15

I worked on our newly bought house from 6 months, digging the garden, hammering down walls, laying flooring 2 days over EDD, all sorts! DD2's birth was under 2 hours, relatively easy. Straight after she was born I hopped up and had a wander about to stretch my legs! No problems healing either. IME excercise (preferably gentle!) helps both labour and healing .

slim22 Wed 26-Jan-05 05:09:16

I thinks helps quick recovery.
Personally did A LOT of walking and yoga every day. Breathing technique definitely helped keeping focused and relaxed during labour.Not sure it makes any difference when going gets tough (had quite an easy ride so can't say.)

samwifewithkid Sun 30-Jan-05 13:41:28

I think that dilating is a psychological thing, and has more to do with frame of mind. I think doing some regular excersise will always be good for the body, but not nessecarily for pregnancy. Do what makes you feel best. I know that at the moment, I couldn't bear to do anything that vaguely resembles excersise other than a bit of gentle swimming once a week (31 w pg) it is too exhausting and doesn't make me feel good. Normally I love walking. As soon as this baby is born and the weight restriction around my middle is gone I can't wait to take dd1 down the park and back out in the fresh air again!

prunegirl Sun 30-Jan-05 14:16:47

Message withdrawn

edam Sun 30-Jan-05 14:22:13

IIRC exercise won't actually hinder labour unless you are a really superfit athlete with extremely toned muscles and v. little body fat. If you aren't a full-time athlete, I don't think you need to worry. Moderate exercise is supposed to be good in pregnancy (lowers your risk of stuff like gestational diabetes, I think) but obviously has to be suitable for pregnant women so no high-impact stuff etc. etc.

Gobbledigook Sun 30-Jan-05 14:43:12

Not read other posts so sorry if I repeat.

I'm pretty fit, I swim 4 or 5 times a week and did loads more exercise inbetween ds2 and ds3 than ever before. When pg with ds3 my bump was quite small and I had to have a scan to check growth at about 30 wks - everyone said how much smaller I was but ds3 was 8lb 10oz and the heaviest of all 3 of my babies.

My labour was pretty easy, painful but no problems and had quick second stage. I was up and out of hospital in 3 hours and I was back in some size 12 cords and jeans after 2 weeks and my size 10 ones after 3 weeks. I did get the weight off pretty rapidly but then actually didn't put much on.

Not sure if that's to do with the swimming or more to do with having 2 toddlers (3.5 and 21 months) plus a newborn and no time to sit down?!

Midwife did say she thought I probably looked smaller and probably had a shorter second stage due to my muscle tone and level of fitness but who knows?

Mirage Tue 01-Feb-05 20:55:52

I have a job which involves a lot of hard physical labour,but had to give up work when 4 months pregnant because of 2 threatened miscarriages.So I sat on my backside for the remaining 5 months,eating biscuits & piling on the weight.[I stopped weighing myself after I had put on 4 stone.]I think I went swimming about 6 times.

However,dd arrived in 4 hours from my having a show & I didn't even have time for pain relief.I didn't have any problems recovering & lost all the weight within months.

I don't know if it was down to genetics or luck-this time around I am running around after dd & don't do any exercise other than that.I'll be interested to see if this labour/recovery is similar.

piffle Tue 01-Feb-05 21:21:33

I am very lazy and the only exercise I ever did was shopping, I had two very quick and "easy" labours...
Sure it was luck though!!!!!!!!!

bobbybob Wed 02-Feb-05 00:49:13

I wouldn't know if my labour was harder as I have nothing to compare it to, but I exercised at least 5 times a week and was walking 5km pushing a pram when ds was 4 days old.

Labour was 14 hours from waters breaking to baby, in water, no pain relief. I thought I was more up to it stamina wise by being fit.

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