Let me make this clear right away: Pregnant women SHOULD exercise. What is good for you body BEFORE you became pregnant, and what is good for your body AFTER you have a baby, is ALSO good for your body during pregnancy. Unless you get specific medical advice not to exercise from your OB/Gyn, you need to keep moving through pregnancy.
The evidence is not as deep as I would like it to be, but what science we have on exercise and pregnancy indicates the following: * Reduced health risks for the mother (less chance of gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, etc.) * Faster, easier childbirth * Proper weight gain for both mother and baby--neonates of mothers who exercise are generally smaller than those who don't, BUT still in the healthy range. * Potential behavioral side effects: Calmer babies, less colic, more alert, easier to soothe. These could simply be factors of a less-stressed mother (since she's getting her exercise).
What kinds of exercise can a pregnant woman do? Almost everything she did before she got pregnant. Does an eight-month pregnant pro figure skater really WANT to do that triple-toe-loop? Probably not. But a few rounds around the rink should be fine. On the other hand, if you've never stepped onto the ice,3rd trimester is NOT the time. Walk. Find a pool and splash around in it with your other kids (they'll appreciate the one-on-one Mommy time anyway, since that's ALL about to change!) And as always, CHECK with your doctor.
How much exercise can a pregnant woman do? Again, it depends on her state of fitness before the pregnancy. The general rule of thumb is to work up to the basic federal guidelines of 20-30 minutes most days of the week. If you're already there, don't add beyond your current fitness level.
Still can't get off the couch for the nausea and general "ugh" that pregnancy makes some of us feel? Then just promise me one thing. For the sake of all that is holy, PUT DOWN THE CIGARETTES NOW.
No, not after this last puff--NOW!
I honestly believe in a person's right to poison herself. I also believe that if you choose to smoke while pregnant someone should tell you with the greatest love, but in no uncertain terms, you are poisoning your baby. Stop it. Now. Call your local health department and get help.