To cut to the chase, the answer is YES. An ultrasound is a procedure that requires no particular preparation on behalf of the patient unless your doctor says otherwise: this means you can maintain the same diet, sleep habits, activity levels, and overall lifestyle up until the day of the examination.
So is there nothing to be wary of?
That said, there are indirect factors influenced by specific types of exercise that can affect the result of ultrasound. Possible injuries (e.g. tendon thickening, edema, or bursitis), for example, from activities such as running (or other aerobic exercises, for that matter), can influence the ultrasound assessment of enthesis.
Aside from that, however, I’ve found no real evidence suggesting that any alteration of your cardiovascular activity regime is needed prior to an ultrasound examination.
This line of questioning opens the door for many others, though: from specific aspects regarding the health benefits of cardio, to which forms of cardio & types of training regimes are best suited for your individual needs. Further into this article, we’ll dive into some of the main tangents that arise, and explore the topic in greater depth.
The Benefits of Cardiovascular Activity on Maternal Health
The simple fact that cardiovascular exercise is good for one’s health isn’t exactly a secret. It’s one of if not the most widely known benefits and incentives to stay in good shape, paralleled only perhaps by the aesthetic benefits to be had by an active lifestyle.
But despite this widespread acceptance of the fact, I’ve found that most don’t actually know what health benefits one gain exactly from these habits, just that it’s a “healthier” way to live.
These health benefits include:
- Improvement in sleep quality
- Chronic pain reduction
- Enhanced blood pressure regulation
- Tapers cholesterol levels to within a healthy range
- Passively assists in weight management
- Improvement in sexual function
- Increase in immune system efficacy
These are just the most immediate and prominent, as there are also more case-specific, niche benefits such as the reduction of incidences of heart arrhythmia, like atrial fibrillation, or the reduction of Alzheimer’s risk through an increase of oxygen flow to the brain, boosting production of BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), therefore promoting an environment conducive to neurogenesis.
And other, less direct benefits? What else does cardio give me?
There are definitely other indirect benefits that can be gained from cardio, such as stress relief, or heightened productivity, due to the meditative state and improvement in hormone balance that can be achieved through cardiovascular activity, or the ability to multitask through certain forms of low-intensity steady state cardio, such as listening to audiobooks while on a treadmill, or taking calls/answering emails while on a static bike, so on and so forth.
With all this said, though, how exactly do we reap these benefits? What kind of routine or training regime can we put together to maximize our gains in this field? Well, that segways into our next question.
What Do Experts Recommend In Terms of Cardio Training For Pregnant Women?
When contemplating how to fit an exercise regime into our routine, one of the first and primary questions we have is, how? How much, and how often? How intensely? For how long? The list goes on. In this section, we’ll tackle some of the most important aspects of a training regime, to make sure all is structured precisely as it should be.
How much, and how often?
Quantity, and frequency. How much, how often, is the sweet spot, the output that’ll yield us the most bang for our buck?
The current consensus has this pinged at around a minimum of 150 minutes per week for moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, and half that for more vigorous, higher-intensity work, although the benefits continue to stack past this number, with an optimum amount being double that.
Frequency isn’t as clear cut, as the difference is somewhat marginal; but a more spread out routine, allowing for at least some degree of daily activity, is ideal (not necessarily the same amount each day, but rather a habit of daily exertion totaling 150-300min per week for moderate activity, and half that for higher intensity).
Now, as mentioned above, the intensity of your sessions is going to impact the ideal duration, as well as the more specific benefits to be reaped over the short and long term. Shorter, higher intensity sessions are more so anaerobic exercise, providing a greater impact on your hormone balance, such as increased testosterone production with HIIT, for example, or greater lung O2 capacity. Longer, lower-intensity work is more efficient at bringing on the aforementioned benefits, contributing to things such as reduced HDL cholesterol levels, and an increase in sleep quality.
All in all, both forms of cardio can and will contribute to a healthier, higher-quality lifestyle, with only slight variations on either front.
For how long?
Reiterating the information above, I’ve found the consensus to be a bare minimum of 150 weekly minutes of lower-intensity work or 75 of moderate to high-intensity stimuli. This, again, is the bare minimum, as many experts state that an optimal amount would be around 300 low-intensity/150 high-intensity minutes range per week, with the latter sessions not generally surpassing 30-45 minutes each.
|Ideal Cardio Distribution
|5-6x a week
|Ideally daily, not as stringent
Now, with the logistics fleshed out and accounted for, we move on to the more immediate question.
Which Forms of Prenatal Cardiovascular Exercise Will Help Me Maximize Health Benefits?
Continuing along this line of thought regarding the health benefits cardio has to offer, I’ve compiled what are widely considered to be the best forms of cardio for improving one’s overall health and well-being, as well as also improving one’s athletic ability.
Running While Pregnant
Tried and true, known by all, and one of the oldest forms of exercise and cardio known to man, we have “The OG”, running. Even the lightest pace for most will be at least moderate intensity, especially while pregnant, and therefore a good goal to aim for when employing this form of exercise would be the 30-45 minute range unless you’re inching into higher intensities, in which case the ideal duration (or feasible duration for that matter) will vary case by case.
Cycling For Expectant Mothers
Similarly well known, and whilst in this case some equipment is required, most have access to a bicycle or a static bike at our gym of choice. Allowing for a greater degree of comfort and mitigating the impact factor to be found in running, this is a great choice if you think you’ll initially struggle with running for long stretches of time, and want to build your cardiovascular endurance from a lower starting point, while also being able to easily intensify it if needed.
Swimming While Expecting A Child
Lower impact still, and greatly relieving in the later months of pregnancy, swimming is an excellent option for those who would require joint support to the point that even walking could prove painful & uncomfortable after relatively short amounts of time, be it due to arthritis, excessive BMI, inhibitive injuries, or any other number of possible restricting factors. Just treading water for extended bouts is an excellent form of moderate-intensity exertion, and different swimming techniques can easily allow one to pinpoint the degree of intensity they prefer (as well as alleviating the somewhat more trivial but still oftentimes unappealing sweat factor).
Walking During The Prenatal Period
As the expression goes, “You’ve gotta walk before you can run”; where running is queen, walking is King, being the absolute earliest and most basic form of exertion (as well as, a neat factoid, the most calorie efficient form of movement). An excellent starting point for almost anyone, with untold benefits for one’s physical and mental health, and easily sustained for substantially longer periods of time, walking is the bedrock of physical activity, and something that quite literally everyone who is capable should incorporate into their daily lifestyle.
How Walking Before an Ultrasound Assessment Increases the Enthesis Score
As mentioned at the beginning of the article, cardio can increase one’s enthesis score, “a characteristic feature of spondyloarthropathies (SpA)” (or, simply put, the degree of Enthesitis that one suffers, which is the inflammation or aggravation of the attachment points of tendons and bones (the Entheses)), even when it comes to walking.
This isn’t actually a concern for expectant mothers, as it does not affect the womb or the immediate surroundings/areas of influence, but it’s worth knowing if not simply to be fully aware of any and all possible effects before the upcoming procedure, and how that helps achieve a greater understanding of what you’re undergoing.
What other benefits does cardio have for pregnant women?
There are so many other benefits to all ranges of exercise for pregnant women, that it’s difficult to touch upon them all in the rather specific focus of the article; despite that, I’d like to make sure to list off a few lest they go overlooked since they make an even more convincing case for a disciplined cardiovascular (and overall exercise regime) during the prenatal months spent as an expectant mother. These include:
- Reduction of pregnancy complications
- Easing back and pelvic pain that often occurs in the later trimesters
- Reduction in risk regarding issues come time for delivery
- Easier time bouncing back to 100% after the pregnancy has come to term
These are just a few key benefits, and the most prominent and direct to be had, without even diving into the more indirect benefits such as how the improvement in sleep quality will ease the pregnancy process as a whole, or how the better mood one enjoys whilst living a less sedentary lifestyle translates into an easier time overall as an expectant mother.
My Final Thoughts On Exercising Before and Ultrasound
I believe that not only is exercising safely for pregnant women, prior to an ultrasound or otherwise, is necessary.
With that in mind, I’m aware that all this information can seem almost overwhelming; how do I put it into practice? How do I coordinate an optimized routine that can also fit into my existing schedule? What if something unexpected arises (which, as life consistently shows us, always does, let alone throughout pregnancy) and I have to make changes on the fly? What if I make mistakes and hurt my progress? The list of questions goes on. But all of these have a simple answer:
I’ve been in this industry for decades and helped people reach heights they never foresaw as possible for themselves at all, beyond what they initially considered a pipedream. Whether your goal lies in a more health-focused matter, or if your drive is entirely aesthetic based, as well as pretty much anything in between, I’m not only equipped with the tools you need, but have more than likely helped somebody achieve that specific goal already, and can bring that experience to the table to help you maximize every step, avoid mistakes and make your way to your objective faster than you could’ve ever expected.
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