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Walking during pregnancy can maintain the mother-to-be's fitness level and muscle tone. It's also thought to help ease labor for a faster delivery. Walking with other expectant mothers or those with young children can have social benefits as well. Other benefits of walking during pregnancy include lessening the occurrence of side effects as well as the risk of gestational diabetes.
Gestational diabetes is high blood sugar during pregnancy. Since exercise can lower blood sugar, walking is often a good way to help prevent gestational diabetes. Having this kind of diabetes can increase the risk of the woman eventually developing type 2 diabetes. Gestational diabetes can also cause the baby to be born too large or have jaundice, so walking during pregnancy can result in positive health benefits for both mother and child.
Less serious, yet uncomfortable pregnancy side effects, such as constipation, may also be reduced or prevented by maintaining regular walking routines. Even 30 minutes of walking on most days of the week can result in many benefits. Walking during pregnancy is thought to be associated with quicker, easier delivery. It can be done around the mother-to-be's neighborhood on her schedule rather than requiring attendance at structured classes at a community center or gym. This benefit of walking can save expectant parents money that may be better spent on items needed to care for their new infant.
In some neighborhoods, mainly those with young families, pregnant women or mothers with preschool-age children often walk together. This has the benefit of social interaction along with the physical health benefits of walking during pregnancy. It offers the mother-to-be a chance to get to know her neighbors who are at a similar stage in life. Having a group of neighborhood women participating in walking during pregnancy may lead to strong friendships and social support systems such as babysitting exchanges. On rainy days, some neighboring moms-to-be may choose to go indoor mall walking at a nearby shopping complex.
Another benefit of walking is that it is usually safe enough to engage in during the last weeks and days of pregnancy. Walking can also help the expectant mother maintain her weight and body tone during her entire pregnancy. When walking during pregnancy, the exercise should be immediately stopped if the mom-to-be experiences any pain or dizziness. Pregnant women should get their doctor's OK before taking part in any exercise routines, including walking.
@Kat919 - I wish I'd known that about walking! I didn't do a whole lot of walking while pregnant with my first child because he was born in the winter and now I wish I had. He was OP and no one noticed or told me until it was too late.
The other thing about OP babies is that they cause back labor, which is super painful. Then you get an epidural because it hurts so much - and getting an epidural is associated with OP babies that don't rotate! Then you wind up with a c-section, like me.
During my second pregnancy, I was a lot more active and walked more with my toddler and I'm sure that's a big part of why I was able to achieve a VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean). I was in better shape and baby was better positioned!
Another reason walking is good exercise for pregnancy is that it can help with baby's position! It's not just about baby being head-down. You want baby to be facing your back and to have his chin tucked down a bit. Babies that are facing forward are much harder to deliver vaginally and sometimes a c-section is required.
You may have heard these babies called "sunny-side-up" or "OP" (for occipital posterior). Walking, pelvic tilts, and sitting on an exercise ball instead of a chair are all good ways to prevent an OP baby.
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