Can I exercise while pregnant?
To sum things up...
Exercise during pregnancy can greatly benefit both you and your baby. Read on to find out about the benefits of exercise in pregnancy, what’s safe, what’s not and precautions to take.
First off, CONGRATULATIONS on your pregnancy!
I imagine right now you're feeling a mixture of emotions. Excitement at seeing that positive test result... anxiety thinking of what could go wrong... curiosity of who this little human might be...
And likely a million other questions!
When it comes to exercising during pregnancy, us moms want to know what's safe.
But we also want to know how we can take care of ourselves and feel our best.
Perhaps you're thinking, "what's safe for me to do?", "can I continue my usual workouts?"
We are going to help answer those questions!
First, let’s start off with,
“Is it safe to exercise during pregnancy?”
The short answer? YES!
Here’s what you need to know:
- First, check with your healthcare provider to discuss exercise during pregnancy and what activities you can safely perform.
- Once you’ve done this, the ACOG* reassures us that “if you are healthy and your pregnancy is normal, it is safe to continue or start regular physical activity” and it will “not increase your risk of miscarriage, low birth weight, or early delivery.”
If you’re still on the fence about whether exercise during pregnancy is important, check out the benefits below before making up your mind.
“What are the benefits of exercise during pregnancy?”
Regular exercise can benefit you and your growing baby by:
- Reducing back pain and easing constipation
- Lessening the risk of preeclampsia and gestational diabetes or of needing a C-section
- Helping with healthy weight gain during pregnancy
- Improving your overall fitness and strengthening your heart
- Helping you to lose the baby weight after baby is born
Alright, so now that you’re convinced that exercise during pregnancy IS in fact important, you might be asking,
“How much exercise during pregnancy is OK?"
- A minimum of 150 minutes, moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week.
- Workouts broken into 30-minute chunks, 5 days a week, or several 10-minute workouts each day.
- If you are new to exercise, begin slowly and then gradually increase your amount of activity.
- “If you were very active before pregnancy, you can keep doing the same workouts with your obstetrician’s approval.”
“What are some safe exercises I can do during pregnancy?”
Looking for specific (and safe) exercise ideas during pregnancy? Check these out!
- Stationary biking
- Swimming or water workouts
- Modified yoga and modified Pilates
Note: “If you are an experienced runner, jogger, or racquet-sports player, you may be able to keep doing these activities during pregnancy. Discuss these activities with your obstetrician or other member of your health care team.”
“What precautions should I take when exercising during pregnancy?”
Pregnancy is an incredibly exciting time, but can also cause anxiety as we worry about our little one and their safety.
In my second pregnancy, I continued my workout routine, but noticed cramping and vaginal bleeding after my workouts when I was about six weeks pregnant.
It was a terrifying experience as I thought I had lost the baby.
I talked to my healthcare provider, stopped working out for a couple of weeks, and fortunately everything turned out to be okay. It was a scary experience that taught me the importance of knowing what precautions I should take when exercising while pregnant.
A quick list of pregnancy exercise precautions
Even though exercise is approved during pregnancy, it’s wise to keep these precautions in mind:
- “Drink plenty of water before, during, and after your workout.”
- Watch for signs of dehydration (a racing/pounding heart, dizziness, dark yellow urine or urinating very little).
- “Wear a sports bra that gives lots of support to help protect your breasts. Later in pregnancy, a belly support belt may reduce discomfort while walking or running.”
- Especially in your first trimester, avoid overheating by wearing loose-fitting clothing, avoiding exercise outdoors when it’s very hot or humid, and drinking plenty of water.
- Avoid the following positions: standing still and lying flat on your back.
Those are just some precautions for a regular, healthy pregnancy. There are, however, some times when exercise during pregnancy is NOT safe.
"Are there certain conditions that make exercise during pregnancy unsafe?"
The ACOG says you shouldn’t exercise during pregnancy if you have any of the following conditions or pregnancy complications:
- “Certain types of heart and lung diseases
- Being pregnant with twins or triplets (or more) with risk factors for preterm labor
- Placenta previa after 26 weeks of pregnancy
- Preterm labor or ruptured membranes (your water has broken) during this pregnancy
- Preeclampsia or pregnancy-induced high blood pressure
- Severe anemia”
What changes occur in the body during pregnancy that can affect my exercise routine?
Even if you start your pregnancy quite fit, your body will still go through changes that are out of your control.
Here are some changes to watch out for and to consider when choosing exercises during pregnancy.
- Your joints become more relaxed during pregnancy, therefore you should:
- “avoid jerky, bouncy, or high-impact motions that can increase your risk of being hurt.”
- Your center of gravity, and consequently your balance, are shifted during pregnancy, placing “stress on joints and muscles”. Since you are already less stable, avoid activities that pose greater risks of falling.
- Your need for oxygen increases during pregnancy. You may feel out of breath more easily as “oxygen and blood flow are directed to your muscles and away from other areas of your body” when you exercise.
Even if you're feeling bold, pregnancy is not the time to take on extreme sports… so “What activities should you avoid during pregnancy?”
During pregnancy, avoid the following activities that increase your risk of injury:
- “Contact sports and sports that put you at risk of getting hit in the abdomen”
- “Skydiving” or “scuba diving”
- Activities with a high risk of falling (surfing, water skiing, downhill skiing, gymnastics, etc.)
- Any activities that could cause you to become overheated (e.g. “Hot yoga” or “hot Pilates”)
- “Activities performed above 6,000 feet (if you do not already live at a high altitude)”
So you’ve got the go ahead, you’ve started exercising, but you’re feeling worried something isn’t quite right...
“What are warning signs that you should stop exercising?”
Regardless of your fitness level prior to pregnancy, watch out for these warning signs when you exercise and call your obstetrician immediately if you notice any of them:
- Vaginal bleeding
- Feeling faint or dizzy
- “Shortness of breath before starting exercise
- Chest pain
- Muscle weakness
- Calf pain or swelling
- Regular, painful contractions of the uterus
- Fluid gushing or leaking from the vagina”
Written by: Kelsey @ Be Active Maternity - Maternity and Nursing Activewear