A Publication of WTVP

The physiological demands of pregnancy on the mother are considerable, and labor is probably the most demanding activity a mother will ever go through. If an athlete knew that the most demanding event of her life was approaching in eight or nine months, don't you think she would prepare for that event through proper conditioning?

During labor, a woman experiences high-intensity muscular contractions and extreme exertional discomfort. According to Doug McGuff, M.D., poor muscular conditioning is the most common cause of non-progressive labor, fetal distress, and need for emergent cesarean section. Most women don't strengthen and condition their bodies in preparation for pregnancy. In fact, most become grossly de-conditioned during their pregnancy. This increases the risks during labor for the mother and her child and makes it difficult for the mother to reacquire her pre-pregnancy figure.

When a woman reaches her child-bearing years, Mother Nature alters her bodily structure whether she delivers a child or not. The most significant alteration is increased laxity of the ligaments within the hip and pelvic girdle. During pregnancy, a woman's posture may also change due to slumping shoulders and a dramatic increase in the stress in the lower back region. Once created, these joint instabilities in many women last a lifetime unless neutralized by sensible strength training.

Exercise guidelines set by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology have mainly focused on aerobic activities. Obstetrician/Gynecologist S. H. Bailey, M.D., states, "A safer, smarter fitness choice would be a structured, full range of movement strength training program." Furthermore, the safety of your strength training program can be increased by performing repetitions in the slowest manner possible. This form of strength training dramatically reduces the amount of force on your joints. The effectiveness also can be enhanced by working out at a high intensity.

Proper instruction of low force, high intensity strength training also entails the teaching of correct breathing and relaxation techniques. If you breathe correctly during this form of strength training, you'll realize it's similar to the pattern of breathing taught in Lamaze classes. However, Lamaze classes attempt to teach this technique without the accompanying intense muscular contractions and are devoid of any exertional discomfort (the physiological responses that occur during a proper exercise program such as elevated heart rate, elevated breathing rate, increased body heat production, and muscle fatigue). A correctly applied one-on-one strength training session allows the expectant mother to have multiple rehearsals of deep concentration, proper instruction, and relaxed breathing in the face of intense muscular contractions and physical exertional discomfort.

Dr. McGuff added, "Not only is low force, high intensity strength training 'okay' to perform during pregnancy; in my opinion it is the perfect preparation for pregnancy." This is why mothers and medical professionals should take more seriously the risks a mother and child are faced with during delivery due to poor muscular conditioning. IBI