Dads weren't involved in the delivery, and correlations between smoking/alcohol use and pregnancy weren't always considered.
In addition, exercise was not a priority because pregnancy was generally seen as a frailty, with doctors often prescribing bed rest.
But they've come a long way. Doctors today promote exercise and it has been proven to have numerous benefits for mother and baby.
“Fifty years ago, pregnancy was not considered as much of a normal condition as it is today,” said Gay Cordell, registered nurse and clinical exercise specialist at East Texas Medical Center. “Today pregnant women go about their business and have very little impact on their day-to-day lives with their pregnancy, other than its normal discomforts. Exercise is greatly encouraged for the mom.”
While some perceptions about pregnancy still exist, it's a representation that 29-year-old fitness instructor Abbie Halberstadt certainly does not adhere. She continues to instruct a resistance workout program — Body Pump — at Woodcreek Athletic Club. She is a mother of three and soon-to-be mother of five. She's more than 35 weeks along in her pregnancy and is expecting twin girls.
“I think there's this misguided image that pregnancy is a sickness or it's a disability,” Mrs. Halberstadt said. “You can do a whole lot of things pregnant that you do when you're not as long as you're willing to listen to what your body's telling you.”
Twin pregnancies are typically high risk, and depending on the circumstances, doctors are generally more cautious with their patient.
Mrs. Halberstadt has consulted with a physician about her exercise regimen and will be delivering with a midwife.
She's been a fitness instructor for five years. Her first class, pre-pregnancy, was a freestyle weight cardio class — a combination of high-low cardio and weights.
The former Spanish teacher has always been active and played sports since she was 6 years old. She said her healthy habits are why she is able to continue with a workout regimen today.
“The general advice is you can keep doing what you've already been doing as long as you modify once your body changes,” she said. “You wouldn't want to start a regimen while you're pregnant, no matter the risk, whether low risk or high risk. If you've already been teaching Body Pump, keep teaching Body Pump until you're uncomfortable and/or unable to.”
To modify as she got further along in the pregnancy, Mrs. Halberstadt reduced the amount of weights she lifts and inclines her head so that it is higher than her hips while lying down. Physicians do not recommend that women lie flat past the first trimester because the pressure on the vena cava vein may restrict blood flow.
Mrs. Halberstadt doesn't perform full abdominal exercises and planks are done on her knees instead of toes. In addition, she only “models” certain movements that she can't do for class members.
“I have tapered off quite a bit because typically I teach four times a week and now (I teach) about two,” she said last week. “I think I'll go another week or so.
Twins tend to come early, and since I'm already at 35 1/2 weeks, they could come in the next couple of weeks.”
Her dedication to exercise while pregnant has inspired her class members and others.
“I have a lot of people who think it's incredible that I'm still working out and teaching,” she said “I have a lot of people tell me, 'If you can do it, I can do it'.”
REAPING THE BENEFITS
The benefits are a focus for women who take prenatal classes at East Texas Medical Center's Olympic Center, which include aerobics, yoga and water exercises. Ms. Cordell, who instructs the classes, said the prenatal classes follow guidelines of the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Before participation in the class, women must be cleared by their physician. Ms. Cordell evaluates the women before exercise, checking their blood pressure and other vital signs.
Among the concerns related to exercise and pregnancy is having an appropriate body temperature.
“If momma is hot, baby is even hotter,” Ms. Cordell said. “Dehydration is one of the biggest problems that can happen with a mom who's pregnant and exercising.”
Hypertension and gestational diabetes are other common complications that can be prevented with exercise.
“By improving the mom's health, we decrease a lot of the problems that can be caused from inactivity during pregnancy,” Ms. Cordell said.
Women who exercise throughout pregnancy find that it aids during delivery. Muscles are stronger, and it helps with endurance, which is important during a long, arduous labor.
Mrs. Halberstadt's advice to other pregnant women or those wanting to get pregnant is simple: Talk with your doctor and start off slow if you didn't have an exercise regimen before. And if it hurts, don't do it.
“If you're already active, stay active,” she added. “It doesn't have to be the same level as before, but don't start sitting on the couch and eating for two when you're three weeks pregnant because you will gain a lot of weight, and you will not feel good at all.”
In addition to her Tuesday aerobic class, she does water aerobics. When she can't workout, she stretches.
“I can just tell that my energy level is up when I exercise,” she said. “I feel better all over. I know it's good for the baby. So if it's good for the baby, I'm willing to do whatever.”
Perhaps those old perceptions had Mrs. Moran believing she wouldn't be able to do as much activity as she is doing now.
“I thought it was going to be harder than it is,” Mrs. Moran said. “I thought I'd be more sick, and I wouldn't be able to move around much. And I thought I'd have to change my lifestyle, but I really didn't have to do that much. I was pretty healthy before I got pregnant, so I didn't have to change much of my eating habits.”
She added, “It's been pretty easy and I've been very surprised actually, and I know that the exercise helped with it a lot.”
How much weight a women should gain during pregnancy depends on her current weight, overall health and recommendations from her physician.
“If you are overweight at the time that you become pregnant, exercise is probably even more important,” Ms. Cordell said. “Even if you are overweight when you start your pregnancy, you can still become even healthier during your pregnancy. As long as mom is feeling good, eating healthy and exercising, that's much better for the baby even if she's overweight. It can still help prevent the complications.”