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Working Out for 2? Help Is on the Way

September 07, 1998|KATHLEEN DOHENY

More women than ever exercise regularly right through their pregnancies, providing they have no risk factors that would rule it out. Even if pregnant women must slow down a bit, they can still achieve health benefits from regular workouts, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which advises women to follow their obstetricians' advice about exercise.

To make workouts during pregnancy easier, product and apparel manufacturers have expanded their offerings. Here, we review four items designed to help women continue their workouts throughout most of the nine months--along with no-holds-barred opinions from the very pregnant members of Teresa Peters' Saturday-morning childbirth preparation class at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank.

A Bouncing Ball

Designed to help pregnant women engage in a low-impact workout, the Gymnic Plus is a large, green inflatable ball made of a synthetic resin material that conforms to the body. It comes in three diameters (23, 27 and 33 inches) and includes a small hand pump.

The ball can be used to strengthen the muscles of the back, abdomen, buttocks, inner thighs and pelvic region. These balls, used for years by physical therapists, can also relieve lower back pain and back labor, says Peters, who has encouraged class members to investigate this versatile product. (Some women also use it as a "birthing ball" to help them maintain a squatting position as they deliver.)

The review: "Ooh, it feels good," says Tiza Wynn of Los Angeles, pressing the ball between her shoulders and a door. "It kind of stabilizes your back. It takes the pressure off." Peters demonstrated a few exercises and how it could be used to relieve back labor. Later, it can also be used as a toy.

The balls range from $18.95 to $26.95. (An accompanying booklet, for $12, illustrates exercises. But women are advised to check out the exercises first with their obstetricians; some illustrate a recumbent position, which the ACOG advises women to avoid after the first trimester to ensure adequate blood flow to the uterus.)

The balls are distributed in the United States by Ball Dynamics International, (800) 752-2255, or

A Lotta Support

Mom-Ez Maternity Back Support wraps around the lower back and below the abdomen and is meant to reduce lower back pain and fatigue by gently lifting the abdomen. It helps a woman maintain proper posture, too. It's made of machine-washable cotton and meant to be worn under clothes.

The manufacturer, Smith Orthopedics, says about 2,000 doctors nationwide recommend their product.

The review: A good idea, everyone concurs, but the bulkiness might be a problem. "This would be harder to conceal under clothing," says Catherine Scott of Hollywood Hills, who is expecting twins and regularly wears a similar type of support product that's not visible under clothing.

The back support is sold for about $40 at maternity stores. Or, for store information, call Smith Orthopedics, (800) 279-7711.

Fertility What?

Maternity T-shirts for women who normally wear plus-size clothing are a specialty of Baby Becoming, a Rhode Island catalog company founded by a large-size woman. The shirts feature novelty slogans, such as "Little Angel" with a downward arrow or "The Expectant Mom's Guide to Baby Food Stains" with nine illustrated stains.

The review: We took along the "Fertility Goddess" shirt, complete with a painted-on necklace and jewel. Response? No sales in this group. No one volunteered to model it. It wasn't the shirt they objected to; it was the slogan. There were muttered protests about not being considered a baby machine. About the best that could be said: "It might make a good nightshirt."

The shirts, machine washable and dryable in cotton, are available in sizes 1X, 3X and 5X, and are $19.95 each plus shipping, handling and sales tax. To order, call (401) 568-0688 or visit the Web site at

Snap to It?

A black unitard from Japanese Weekend, a San Francisco company specializing in maternity wear, has a dual waistband called the Flip-It band designed to give added support during an impact workout. When the band is flipped up, it helps support the abdominal muscles and lower back. It's flipped down to do stretching and leg work. The 90% cotton, 10% spandex unitard is machine washable.

The review: Great styling. Nice idea. But how does a pregnant woman--who goes to the bathroom, as one class participant points out, about every half-hour--manage to get in and out of this quickly and gracefully? Consensus: Add some strategically placed snaps, pronto.

About $64. For store information, or to order by mail, call (800) 808-0555. or visit the Web site at


Kathleen Doheny can be reached at

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