New Challenges During Pregnancy That Can Interfere with Being Active

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Managing back pain; exercise clothing; third trimester precautions

Management of Back Pain in Pregnancy
  • Posture maintenance
  • Lumbar and support cushions for sitting
  • Wedge-, J-, or C-shape pillows for sleeping on your side
  • Frequent repositioning
  • Sacroiliac belts or maternity supports
  • Ice packs
  • Lukewarm baths with Epsom salts
  • Relaxation
  • Physical therapy
  • Moderate exercise
  • Pool exercises
  • Stretching programs
  • Massage on your side or in a chair
  • Occasional Tylenol (acetomenophen) tablets
If back pain continues after pregnancy, more aggressive treatments can be helpful and curative. See a sports medicine or back doctor (orthopedist or physiatrist) as soon as possible to prevent the pain from becoming chronic. You might need x-rays or an MRI to evaluate the cause. If you are breastfeeding, check with your pregnancy-care physician or pediatrician before taking medications for pain.

Exercise Equipment and Clothing
To accommodate for temperature changes during exercise, you should wear layers of loose, breathable clothing. The newer synthetic materials are excellent to exercise in as they "breathe," preventing heat from getting trapped inside the clothes. Be aware that wearing a hat keeps heat in. Switch to a visor to keep the sun out of your face but let your heat out.

As your breasts increase in size, you will need more support. Most athletic stores have a range of sizes of supportive athletic bras; you can also order from the manufacturers.

Your shoes should be well cushioned and supportive. You might need a half or full size larger to accommodate to fluid retention. Too tight shoes can cause unnecessary numbness, tingling, and pain. Be careful not to have shoes that are too big, however, as shoes that are loose can cause you to trip and fall. Getting a few bigger-size pairs of shoes in pregnancy is a very worthwhile investment. If you have trouble finding wider sizes, consider looking in the men's or boy's department, as their shoes are wider throughout.

Special Situations in the Third Trimester
WARNING: Lying on your back for more than five minutes in the third trimester can compromise blood flow to the baby.

During the third trimester, your body size is growing to its maximum. Due to your expanding size, you might find engaging in high-impact activities or brisk walking uncomfortable. It can be more difficult to get around as quickly as you did before, so slow down! You should eliminate any activities in which you might fall or where quick stops and starts are needed such as in tennis or field sports. Balance is challenged by your new size, looser ligaments, and loss of sight of your feet. Your added weight can further stress your joints in your feet, ankles, knees, hips, and, of course, back.

Organs can become crowded by the size of your baby. Because the space for your lungs is compromised, you might feel more easily short of breath. Your bladder cannot hold as much urine as before, and pressure from the expanded uterus might cause you to urinate more frequently. You might have trouble holding in your urine with coughing or if your bladder gets too full. Do not let this stop you from drinking enough fluids. Even if you have to go to the bathroom every 30 minutes or wear mini pads, keep drinking.

Sleeping can become a challenge due to difficulty getting comfortable and frequent urination. Let yourself take naps, and remember that rest is essential to your and your baby's health. Try to lie on your left side as much as possible; not on your back. If you are too tired to exercise due to a bad night's sleep, rest.

Braxton-Hicks contractions are mini-contractions that help reposition the baby, but if they become frequent, they are a sign that you need to rest. If you get them while being active, stop and rest. Drink an extra glass of water, and if they do not stop, lie on your left side. If they last longer than 30 minutes or are closer than 10 minutes apart, call your doctor.

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More on: Postpartum

excerpted from:

From The Active Woman's Health and Fitness Handbook by Nadya Swedan. Copyright © 2003 by Nadya Swedan. Used by arrangement with Perigee, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon.


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