Being in your best health before becoming pregnant is essential for a healthy pregnancy and baby; but over 30 percent of Utah women entering pregnancy are either overweight or obese. No matter how much you weigh – there is one thing women can do right now to help prevent pregnancy problems – exercise.

Wendy Young is entering her last few weeks of pregnancy. This will be her third baby and through all of her pregnancies, she has focused on being physically active.

“I exercise a lot and I think I have more energy than most people do.”

Wendy has been an avid exerciser since high school when she set out to lose weight. She dropped over 100 pounds in two years, and has kept the weight off by staying true to her goals.

“I just feel so much better about myself and I feel better as a person just be exercising.”   Wendy is a triathlete and loves to run and has a hard time gaining enough weight during pregnancy.

“For all of my pregnancies, I threw up for all nine months. So I have a hard time gaining weight because I have a hard time keeping stuff in.”

Diane Heubusch, a Certified Nurse Midwife at L-D-S Hospital, is Wendy’s pregnancy care provider. She advised Wendy to cut her exercise down to a 30 minute walk each day, instead of her usual rigorous routine. Heubusch counsels many patients about the dangers associated with starting pregnancy at an unhealthy weight, and about gaining appropriate weight during those critical nine months.

“Weight is a hard issue for everyone, pregnant or not pregnant,” says Heubusch. “The resistance is your background. If you’ve struggled with it your whole life, if it’s just happened since you’ve gotten married; it’s a self esteem issue.”

But it is also a health issue. Research shows that women who are overweight when starting a pregnancy have a harder time losing their baby weight afterwards – a contributing factor to obesity in women. They also are at risk for complications, like gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, a more difficult labor and delivery, and a host of other conditions.

Weight gain charts can help women keep track of how much weight they are gaining. The charts are based on pre-pregnancy body mass index, and show the recommended weight gain range for each woman’s pregnancy.

Besides tracking your weight, Huebusch says exercise will make a world of difference in a pregnant women’s physical – and mental health – no matter how much she weighs.

“Most pregnant women who exercise will say they feel better when they exercise,” says Heubusch. “They feel their circulation is better, their moods are better; they feel they carry the baby more comfortably. Sometimes women visualize exercise is they have to go to a gym and it’s time away from their children or the expense; it really can be as simple as getting some good walking shoes and going for a good brisk walk.”

Heubusch also says swimming is considered one of the best exercises during pregnancy because it takes pressure off the joints and helps women feel lighter.

Click here to learn more about appropriate weight gain during pregnancy.