Regular exercise is an important factor of staying healthy and energetic throughout your pregnancy. It can also decrease the risk of certain conditions, reduces stress and helps you build up stamina for delivery. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day for pregnant women on most or all days of the week, unless your doctor advises you otherwise.
Here are some tips on exercising safely while pregnant, plus exercises to include or avoid as part of your exercise routine.
Pregnancy Exercise Safety
In most cases, exercise during pregnancy is entirely safe. If you were physically active before you became pregnant, you can usually remain that way after throughout pregnancy.
In some rare cases, a medical issue or a pregnancy-related condition might prevent you from exercising. Such issues may include:
- Heart disease
- Threatened or recurrent miscarriage
- Weak cervix
- History of premature birth or early labor
- Low placenta
- Bleeding or spotting
In general, exercise during pregnancy should not be done with weight loss as a specific goal. If you have any of the following symptoms while exercising, stop immediately and consult your doctor:
- Pain in the head, chest, abdomen, calf, or pelvis, possibly accompanied by persistent contractions
- Feeling faint, dizzy, nauseous, light-headed, cold or clammy
- Vaginal bleeding, or a sudden or trickling gush of fluid from the vagina
- Major decrease or total absence of baby movement
- Irregular or increased heartbeat
- Sudden swelling in the ankles, hands, or face
- Shortness of breath
- Trouble walking or muscle weakness
Benefits of Exercise While Pregnant
Many pregnant women find benefits from exercise, including:
- Improved posture, mood and energy
- Reduction of complications like constipation, backaches, swelling and bloating
- Prevention or treatment of gestational diabetes
- Improved sleep
- Improved muscle tone, endurance and strength—these all may play a role in your fitness and ability to handle labor when the time comes
Basic Exercise Guidelines
Follow these tips for healthy, productive exercise while pregnant:
- Wear the right exercise attire: Always wear shoes designed for your particular type of exercise. Choose comfortable, loose clothing plus a support bra.
- Don’t eat for at least an hour before exercising. Do, however, drink plenty of water before, after and during exercise.
- Exercise only on level surfaces to limit injury risks.
- If you’re doing exercises on the floor, always stand up slowly to avoid becoming dizzy.
- Never exercise until you’re completely exhausted.
Exercises to Avoid
In addition, there are a few exercise types or activities within exercise that should be avoided while pregnant. These include:
- Contact sports (football, basketball, softball, etc)
- Falling sports (skiing, horse riding)
- Any sport or activity that involves significant jumping, bouncing or running
- Holding your breath during exercise for any reason
- Any standing waist-twisting movements
- Certain specific exercises: Deep knee bends, double leg raises, full sit-ups, leg-toe touches
- Exercising in hot or humid conditions
- Bouncing during stretches
- On and off exercise: Heavy spurts of activity and then long periods of no activity should be avoided
Your doctor can provide additional recommendations on exercising properly during pregnancy.
I practice the full range of family medicine including obstetrics, pediatrics, adolescent medicine, adult medicine and some orthopedics. I also perform colposcopy, cryotherapy and vasectomies. Due to the volume of deliveries we do, my practice has evolved to be more centered on women and children’s medicine, although I enjoy all aspects of family medicine.
“Exercise During Pregnancy.” WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/baby/guide/exercise-during-pregnancy#1
“Exercise During Pregnancy.” American Pregnancy Association. http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health/exercise-during-pregnancy/