A free, ongoing prenatal fitness class demonstrates how effective fitness can be to mothers' health and well-being as well as babies'.

"This class is a workout and a support group for pregnant women," said Gladys Crawford, manager, Rinehart Fitness Center. "It's an open forum on what to expect during pregnancy, including level of comfort and things expectant mothers might experience, such as abdominal pulling. We can explain what's going on with their bodies."

The class started out as a six-week class and has now expanded into an ongoing class.

"I come from an education background," Crawford said. "I taught college, so I decided to offer educational fitness classes for pregnant women. I was certified in November and started the classes in January. We started with over 20 students in the class, but right now we're at five or six participants."

Some of the activities in the workout class on Mondays include circuit training, walking and push-ups.

Participants of the class can talk and exchange ideas and information as they stay in shape during the relaxation exercises on Wednesdays.

"In the relaxation class, mothers learn to relax their bodies and their cores so the baby has more room to move. We also learn relaxation breathing from head to toe," said Crawford.

She said she started out wanting to conduct the course in a classroom setting and discuss nutritional aspects and body changes.

"There are many aspects of pregnancy that women aren't aware of or don't understand like postpartum depression. They need to recognize the symptoms and realize that it's a very real problem," Crawford said.

The class also discusses safety, like how to walk during pregnancy.

"I know it sounds very basic, but your center of gravity shifts during pregnancy, and it can be a real problem," said Crawford. "We use the relaxation class to discuss many of these topics."

She said Fort Sill doesn't offer physical training tailored for prenatal Soldiers, but she is trying to change that with this class.

"The units are beginning to see the importance of the class because the unit often doesn't know what physical training to do for pregnant Soldiers," said Crawford.

Pfc. Rachel Makins, Headquarters and Service Battery, 1st Battalion, 30th Field Artillery, who is almost seven months pregnant, said she was glad Rinehart started offering the prenatal fitness classes. She said although it was her first day in the class it was already very helpful.

Makins said when she does PT with her unit there are things she can't do anymore, such as sit-ups or push-ups. "Almost everything in regular PT goes against my profile, except walking," she said. "In the prenatal class I can do all the exercises, so I'm getting something out of it. The class provides a variety of exercise. I learned what exercises I can do like squats, wall push-ups and exercises that would help, like the pelvic exercise, which helps with the delivery because it doesn't put as much of a strain on the delivery."

Spc. Faamaoni Leaana, administrative assistant for the Noncommissioned Officers Academy, is 21 weeks pregnant and said she started taking the classes when they were first offered. "I found out the classes were being offered in an e-mail from my sergeant major," she said. "I haven't missed a day. I really enjoy the information when we have relaxation day. Gladys talks to us about pregnancy issues and gives us lots of information on what we can expect and what is happening with our bodies. I've learned a lot to help me during the pregnancy."

Leaana said she likes that the fitness training and pregnancy information are combined in one class. "It's great to be around other pregnant women in the class. They are so open when they share their experiences and problems. It makes it feel better knowing I am not the only one going through these things," she said.

Danielle Debourbon is a spouse who is 29 weeks pregnant and in her third trimester. "I started attending the classes at the beginning of my second trimester," she said. "I think the most helpful part of the class is the motivation I receive from other expectant mothers. I'll actually be missed if I don't go."

Debourbon said she enjoys doing fitness exercises with other pregnant women. "It's hard to go to the gym and work out when you're pregnant. It makes it easier to work out being around other pregnant women with the same limitations.

She said attending the pregnancy fitness class doesn't feel like work.

"After attending my first fitness class I woke up with sore muscles, and I was surprised," Debourbon said. "I didn't notice I was working out because I was talking and exercising and listening to other mothers. It's nice because we can compare our experiences and learn from each other. We usually have at least one expectant mother in each trimester."

Pregnant women interested in the class can enroll at Rinehart Fitness Center, 2730 Bragg Road, or online at www.sillmwr.com.