There's no way to sugarcoat it: Pregnancy is exhausting! Insomnia becomes a nightly ritual as you're tossing and turning and having to sleep on top of a pyramid of pillows to get the least bit comfortable. You're carrying around an extra 20+ pounds (though skinny celebs like Miranda Kerr and Heidi Klum gained 40, Jessica Alba over 55, and Kate Hudson and Isla Fisher put on 70 pounds each!). You're also more prone to hot flashes and nausea. So the last thing you want to do is workout when you're already breaking a sweat just sitting down!
My doctor told me it was important to exercise while pregnant, especially in the last trimester to help keep my energy up and to prepare my body for what was to come. As she said, "The better shape you're in now, the easier your body will bounce back after baby."
But she also said that I didn't have to do anything too hardcore—long, brisk walks, my usual subway stairs and prenatal yoga were her prescription rather than heavy weights or marathon runs. She just wanted to make sure I kept my heart rate up for 30 minutes three times a week. For the most part I did. But there were days when I was too pooped to move and my ankles and feet were swollen, making my shoes tight and uncomfortable, so as much as I tried to convince my body to get up for a walk, I wasn't going anywhere!
As tired as you may be (and I'm sure you are!), new research might give you the inspiration you need to get up and get moving. Women who exercise during pregnancy are less likely to require a c-section, say scientists. A brisk walk three times a week halves the risk of having a heavy baby—one of the main causes of emergency cesareans.
Science Daily reports that in a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers followed 510 sedentary expectant women. One group had 55 minutes of aerobic, strength and flexibility exercises three days a week during the last six months of pregnancy, while the others did not. Those who worked out reduced their chances of giving birth to a baby weighing more than 9 pounds by 58 percent, and the number of expected cesarean deliveries fell by 34 percent. This exercise routine can also combat gestational diabetes, which can lead to larger baby weights, and the need for a cesarean section.
So while I believe you need to listen to your body, and shouldn't overdue it and push yourself too hard while pregnant, think about the exercise you're doing now as preventative medicine. The workouts you're putting in will keep your baby from getting too big, and stopping you from having a surgical procedure rather than a vaginal birth. And, exercises like yoga and pilates that build your core muscles and perfect breathing techniques, will make your pushes during labor easier, and will help you get back to your pre-baby shape faster. So the effort you put in now will come back in spades. Keep telling yourself that when all you want to do is sit on the couch!