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Exercise During Pregnancy

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Topic: Exercise During Pregnancy

RC: Hello everyone. This is Liz Harvey coming to you from our studios in New York City where we are dedicated to bringing you cutting edge interviews from many of the leading industry professionals across the US. In today’s episode we are speaking with Stephanie Heintzeler. Stephanie is a German educated midwife, a US educated doula, an acupuncturist, and she is a certified lactation counselor. She is known as the New York doula. Stephanie has delivered over 1200 babies and has experience with twins, triplets, breach babies, and water births. She also works with newborn parents in their post partum stage and holds classes and seminars for moms and dads to be. With a wealth of experience and knowledge in her field, Stephanie Heintzeler is widely considered to be one of the top doulas in the country. She is also a contributing member of our national network of industry professionals.

RC: Today we’re going to talk about a very important topic: Exercise During Pregnancy

Hello, Stephanie, how are you today?

Stephanie Heintzeler: I’m good, thank you. How are you?

RC: I’m doing great. Thanks for joining us.

Stephanie Heintzeler: Thanks for having me.

RC: What are the benefits of exercising during pregnancy?

Stephanie Heintzeler: Exercise is very, very important during pregnancy. Even if moms did not exercise before pregnancy, it would make sense to at least start slowly to get the body moving. The reason is that when you exercise during pregnancy, you have more blood flow. Generally during pregnancy, your blood kind of slows down – it gets thinner. The veins get a little bit more loose, there is not so much stability in the body so when you exercise during pregnancy, you will feel better, that’s one thing. You really feel you have more energy. You have less aches and pains. We know that moms that exercise during pregnancy have a better birth experience because they feel better going in labor, they’re not huffing and puffing too much. They feel better about themselves so they can handle pain easier. They come from a very different body sense than when they haven’t done anything during their pregnancy.

RC: What are the safest cardiovascular exercises?

Stephanie Heintzeler: Everything that is not too high impact. First of all, we need to look at the fitness level that the mother had before pregnancy. Let’s say someone who never exercised, you don’t want to start ridiculous exercises cardiovascular in pregnancy. If someone ran marathons like I know someone, she’s running marathons all the time. She’s pregnant, she’s running a half marathon here and there, she’s fine. She is used to it, the body is used to it. Generally if you have low risk pregnancy, you can absolutely just do it less than you’re used to do but talk with your obstetrician or midwife and keep up with it if it makes you feel good. Light running is certainly very good, spinning is good, biking in general if you’re in a space where you live where it’s safe to bike. Walking, just fast, brisk walk, living in New York always possible. Stairs. Really see what makes you feel good. Early pregnancy moms are usually very tired. Late pregnancy, you feel more heavy. Usually you feel best in the second trimester of pregnancy but you can certainly push a little bit yourself like in the end of pregnancy to keep cardiovascular, just to stay on top of it.

RC: Why is yoga such a good form of exercise for pregnant women?

Stephanie Heintzeler: Yoga combines a lot of different things. First of all, what I think is really a very big thing that nobody talks about is community. Moms go and there are all these other moms, they’re very pregnant, they’re early pregnant, they just had a baby. Maybe there’s a class with babies that have been born. You find community and for many women, it’s tough working in a space where there’s no one else pregnant or it’s their first baby, they’re a little bit scared. Often times yoga places, they offer classes like childbirth classes as well so you get to keep meeting people and then they all give birth and you have the same people around you. Of course the other benefit is you have a very good mix of stretching, strengthening, you have something that’s pregnancy tailored. The teachers need to be prenatal trained, prenatal yoga instructors, it’s a special license and you have breath work and breath work can be used tremendously during labor. We need a lot of those exercises that are done during yoga in labor. Even if you haven’t done anything before pregnancy, you’ll learn how to use your breath. You’ll learn how to direct the breath down in your belly towards the baby and that can really help you deal with pain and fear and tension during your labor.

RC: Should women continue strength training and muscle toning during their pregnancy?

Stephanie Heintzeler: Yeah, absolutely. If they did and even if they didn’t before. The body gets softer during pregnancy. The pelvis loosens up a little bit. Hormonally the body is literally, it’s just loosening up. That’s important for birth. That’s the reason why this happens – so the baby can slip through the birth canal. But you feel it. You feel that things are getting more loose, your skin feels different, you might sweat differently. You might feel a little bit more weak. Your gums bleed easily, some moms have more nasal bleeding. You can really help … First of all you get your metabolism up, you have more blood flow but you can really strengthen the body to much more supported during your birth. Get a doula, someone who gives you some exercises and can help you figure out what your body is changing, what changes are happening in your body because not the same exercises for the same mom. It’s really crucial. Just do a bit. If you don’t exercise at all, do a few exercises. There’s so many, even on YouTube and once you have spoken with a doula or obstetrician, midwife and know what you can do, you’ll notice that you will feel much better.

RC: Lastly, what type of exercises like skiing should be avoided and what are the risks to the pregnancy?

Stephanie Heintzeler: The biggest risk, it kind of depends of course what you do. One thing is like high impact sports so skiing – the slopes aren’t always that smooth, high impact classes out there and all that. Anything else, skiing of course is included in that but other exercise as well where you could get injured. You could fall, you could get dizzy, it’s very high up or it’s in the water, like you’re diving, don’t do that. Don’t do anything that puts your body in the risk of falling because you just don’t react that quickly. Your body is different or slower, you’re more heavy and you can’t catch yourself. When I did the emergency room, we had moms regularly who came in, they just fell. They’re like, “I have no idea how this happened.” They just slipped and fell and they didn’t see that step, they just don’t have the same balance. The risks are besides your own injuries, you could hurt your ankle and we don’t want that but of course the pregnancy. The risk could be bleeding, the worst could be premature contractions, premature birth if things go really, really wrong but an injury to the mother, no matter where it is, it’s never fun during pregnancy because you can’t take a lot of medication, you can’t have surgery. If you need it, obviously, you get it, but it’s not ideal. Just use common sense and see what’s safe for your body.

RC: Thank you so much, Stephanie. We know you’re extremely busy so I just want to thank you for your time and your help today.

Stephanie Heintzeler: Thanks for having me.

RC: For our listeners across the country, if you are interested in speaking with Stephanie Heintzeler, you can either go online to www.thenewyorkdoula.com or call 917-399-2031 to schedule an appointment.

On behalf of our entire team, we want to thank you for listening and we look forward to bringing you more top quality content from our country’s leading industry professionals.