Friday, August 2, 2013

The Zumba pregnancy

I've mentioned in a previous post that I continued doing Zumba through my pregnancy as much as I was able. My goal initially was do Zumba for the -entire- pregnancy but being diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum (extreme nausea and vomiting during pregnancy) meant that, much to my dismay, I had to take a break. The break was about ten weeks long and started at week 6.5 and continued to week 17. Those ten weeks were some of the most miserable of my whole life to that point; and not just because I missed ten classes in a row. I pretty much took a break from my entire life to just lay on the couch and hope that I'd only throw up one or two times that day instead six or seven (or more...). The stress on the entire family was nearly tangible as Bry worked extra hard to do his job -and- mine. In that time I lost 12 lbs, needed IV fluids three separate times, and switched to a different OB. At the new doctor's office I was prescribed some medications that actually worked to keep the morning sickness...no, not morning...the all-hours-of-the-day-and-night sickness at bay. The previous doctor's advice: drink some apple juice and eat some crackers and take some vitamin B6 plus a sleep aid. Really? Yeah, really.

The new medications helped enormously. I felt so much better and I was able to eat again. Hey, as long as things were looking up, when could I get back to Zumba? The doctor suggested (strongly and firmly) that I gain those 12 lbs back first and that I take precautions when exercising. Just because I was pregnant, didn't mean I had to stop exercising. It didn't even mean I had to stop Zumba. It just meant that I needed stay safe. Having done Zumba regularly pre-pregnancy meant that I could continue it during pregnancy.
**Side note: Hey pregnant gals, always ask your doctor before starting, or even continuing, any kind of exercise during pregnancy.**
Whenever I'd tell people that I was doing Zumba while pregnant, I always got the "stink eye" followed by any or all of the following:
1) Is it safe for you to be doing that?
2) Does your doctor know you're doing that? Did she say it was okay?
3) You need to take it easy.
4) Don't over-do it.
5) How long are you going to keep doing that? Until delivery?!

I always felt I needed to respond with reassurances that I was being safe, so here they are:

1) A heart rate monitor: A pregnant woman's heart rate shouldn't exceed 145 BPM for any extended period of time. I wore a heart rate monitor watch to every class and checked my heart rate in between every song. Something great about Zumba is that songs vary by intensity and higher intensity songs are alternated with lower intensity songs and there really aren't too many songs longer than five minutes. So even if a particular song got my heart rate up over 145 BPM, it was never for longer than three or four minutes. I wouldn't call that "an extended period of time" and I was never unsafe. What could be considered unsafe is when a heart rate of say, 160 BPM is sustained a for upwards of 15-20 minutes.

2) A medical alert bracelet: There are places online where you can order a custom medical alert bracelet. I ordered one when I was pregnant with my older son because he was a summer baby and my pregnancy was therefore hidden all winter long under a heavy parka. I imagined a car accident in the snow and being unable to speak for myself and realized that first responders are far more likely to check a wrist for a bracelet before they'll unzip a coat. Thankfully, nothing awful ever happened but it never hurts to take precautions. I ordered another bracelet when I was pregnant with my younger son. On it, I had my name, due date, a number for my doctor, a number for my husband, and allergy information. I made sure Rae knew I was wearing it so that if she ever needed to, she could easily get the information (for example: if I fainted in class). This bracelet wasn't really needed any more than the first one was but everyone felt better knowing that I had it.

3) Knowing how and when to modify a specific step: When you're pregnant, in particular if you're in the third trimester, there are some steps you simply cannot do safely. Anything that's going to make you dizzy that might cause you to fall. Jumping is another example, again because of balance and the potential to fall, but also because it's just plain uncomfortable! I'd been doing Zumba for a little over two and a half years when I became pregnant with my younger son so by that point I was very familiar with the majority of songs. This meant I was able to think about the different steps and tone down some that I thought would be too intense. With any new ones that were introduced (and even with a few of the oldies), Rae and Jae were both really good at suggesting modifications to help me. At one of the last classes before I delivered my son, almost 8.5 months pregnant, we did this one that has a lot of turns side to side in the beginning and a lot of squats throughout the entire song (Cha Cha Heels for those who will recognize the name). Rae told me that she thought for sure she was going to need to catch me when I fell. Luckily for me, and her too I think, I have decent balance and I don't get dizzy turning left and right so she never had to.

4) Having enough fluids: I usually bring a large bottle (33 oz) of water but while pregnant, I always brought a personal sized bottle of OJ with me as well. By then end of every class, both were empty. Hey, I was re-hydrating for two!

One last one, and it isn't really a precaution so much as it is a helpful tip. When you do Zumba, your feet get hot and sweaty. When you do Zumba while pregnant, that still happens only with the added complication of swelling. Do yourself a favor and wear some kind of street shoe that is flexible and easily slides on and off or you're going to spend fifteen or twenty minutes after class just sitting around waiting for the swelling go down enough to try to tug your regular shoes on. Trust me on that one, I know firsthand.

Continuing to stay in shape through pregnancy (as much as I was able) was a good idea. I fully expected to have an epidural as I'd had with my older son. My younger one was impatient though. For one thing, he was born almost three weeks before my due date. For another he arrived like a freight train and anesthesiology didn't make it in time. Labor is aptly named, it's a tremendous amount of work. The better shape one is in, the easier things are to manage. Beyond that, the recovery period postpartum seemed faster and easier than what I went through after I had my older son. I will confess that I barely exercised at all through that pregnancy so I do know the difference.
Me and the Zumba baby - 16 hours old

Best advice (to whomever it applies to...): Stay in shape through pregnancy, you'll thank yourself later. While you're doing that though, stay safe. I can't stress that enough, stay safe for your own sake and that of your baby. Always always always talk to your doctor about any kind of exercising during pregnancy.

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