Abigail Hallmark Talks Expecting and Exercise

Hallmark is instructor of YWCA Club W Baby Bump exercise class, which starts June 23

It's surprising that even pregnant women who haven't exercised before can take the class.

Oh yes. A lot of restrictions put on prenatal exercise in the past—not allowed unless you exercised at that level before the pregnancy, or with a certain temperature of water, heart rate, or body temperature—they got rid of in the past five years. Now they use the talk test—if you can talk through the exercise, in three-five word sentences, you can do it. And if you've never exercised before, it starts slow and gentle. To attend, you do have to have consulted with your midwife or health care provider first.

The class is also for women trying to conceive?

It does include pre-conception exercise, which is conducive to conceiving, and post-natal, after exercise. It's mostly about overall fitness, but we alter certain exercises due to comfort or safety issues.

Does the exercise help with labor?

Yes. We work a lot on the muscles used for breathing—and for controlled pushing. To reduce discomfort during pregnancy and labor, we do squats, and work the upper back and shoulders and abdominals. We also work the Keigel muscles, the ones on the pelvic floor. You want to focus before labor on both contracting and relaxing, because when the pelvic floor is tense, labor's like pushing through a brick wall.

How do Keigel exercises help once the baby's born?

The two ways the exercises are most effective are controlling the bladder and rebuilding muscle tension during sex.

How long can pregnant women keep coming to class?

Up until the day you deliver. I'm also a doula (labor assistant), so I've told moms before that there will be an $800 induction fee if you go into labor in the pool.

More about low-cost Club W classes: ywcaknox.com or 523-6126; more about Hallmark, hallmarkdoula.com