Fit and Pregnant: The Pregnant Woman's Guide to Exercise

November 3, 2011

by Joan Marie Butler, RNC,

Ms. Butler has written a very thorough and easily read book for the general public about fitness for women, especially during pregnancy. She has incorporated the most recent studies about exercise and women's health, which makes this a very up to date and current resource for women and health providers.

From the first viewing of this book, I was attracted to the very readable style and format, which I think will have wide appeal. Ms Butler starts with the basics and moves on from there. She makes the basic physiology of pregnancy and exercise interesting, and then discusses the physiologic changes women can expect with exercise, including a chapter about fertility issues and their relationship to exercise. She also mentions safety early in her book including stretching, and then includes threads of other safety ideas throughout the book, with recommendations for things to consider with specific types of fitness activities. She lists Warning Signs in this same chapter, and follows them with touching narratives of several women who made major adjustments in their lifestyle while pregnant.

The chapters cover most major sports, including chapters on Aerobics, Weight Training, Running and Walking, Swimming, Cycling and Winter Activities. The Reference List is complete and easily documents the depth of the author's research. The Resource List covers everything from additional reading, Videotapes, Clothing including abdominal support, and Equipment to assist women with their chosen activities.

The aspect of the book which had the greatest interest for me were the various statements from women who were athletes, and the impact of pregnancy upon their lifestyle. This provided a wonderful way for me to relate to the ideas presented elsewhere in the book and added a very personal dimension to this book. One especially sensitive quote carries in a nutshell the ideas that are well spaced throughout the book. From page 137-137: "Cycling has taken a back burner for now...Cycling while pregnant is fine provided you listen to your body and know when to back off....Being an athlete enhanced my awareness of my body during my pregnancy. The balance between exercise, nutrition and rest became more important while I was pregnant." These quotes are realistic and sincere, and of course point out that even with a good exercise program, the outcome of labor and birth are truly unique. From page 138, a runner describes her individual adjustments to pregnancy and Ms Butler states: "Both Cindy's labors were induced and long. 'I think exercise and being fit gave me the mental edge and stamina for both my labors.'"

One thing I would have liked to have seen would be some line drawings or photos showing good body mechanics, and lifting postures, and how to exercise the abdominals postpartum. On page 42 "Practice good posture and proper lifting and bending techniques" could have been followed by some simple drawings, and the "Easy Abdominals" exercise could have also had a nice line drawing or photo. Excellent photographs are placed throughout the text showing exercise postures, but for those who are not familiar with body mechanics the line drawings would have helped.

The chapter on postpartum and adjusting to motherhood is especially sensitive and informative. In addition to discussing a healthy respect for the recovering body from childbirth, Ms. Butler also addresses the new demands of motherhood, and how difficult it is sometimes to incorporate exercise into a schedule. Reading these sections reminded me of the frustrations I felt after my children were born, and how difficult it was to resume an exercise program. This was before I had established myself into a good exercise program, and before equipment aids such bike trailers and running strollers had been designed. The author also addresses postpartum depression, and provides resources for those that might need them.

This book will be a welcome addition to a midwife or childbirth educator's lending library, and one that I would readily recommended it to clients who already have established exercise programs, and also to others who want to maintain their fitness during pregnancy.

Joan Marie Butler is an experienced nurse-midwife, nurse-practitioner, a mother, and a nationally-ranked Masters athlete.