Exercising During Pregnancy

Sticking to a regular exercise regimen throughout your pregnancy can help you stay happy and healthy. It can also improve your posture, relieve stress and decrease common symptoms of pregnancy, such as backache, constipation and fatigue. Looking ahead, maintaining your physical activity may help you build up the stamina you will need for labor and make it easier to lose the baby weight after birth.

Is it safe to exercise during pregnancy?

If you are healthy and your pregnancy is normal, physical activity does not increase your risk of miscarriage, low birth weight or early delivery. However, all pregnant women should talk to their health care professional before beginning a new exercise routine or continuing an existing one to check that the type and intensity of exercise that they’re doing is safe.

Women with the following medical conditions or pregnancy complications should not exercise during pregnancy:

  • Certain types of heart and lung diseases
  • Cervical insufficiency
  • Being pregnant with multiples and with risk factors for preterm labor
  • Placenta previa after 26 weeks
  • Preterm labor or ruptured membranes
  • Preeclampsia or pregnancy-induced high blood pressure
  • Severe anemia

How much should I exercise?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise a week, unless you have a medical or pregnancy complication. Moderate intensity activity means you’re moving enough to raise your heart rate and begin to sweat. Some examples of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise include brisk walking or gardening.

If you were physically active before your pregnancy, you should be able to continue your previous activity in moderation. However, don’t push yourself to exercise at your pre-pregnancy level. Do what’s most comfortable for you now, and adjust as your pregnancy progresses.

If you’ve never exercised regularly before, walking is a safe place to start. Start with as little as five minutes a day and add five minutes a week until you can stay active for 30 minutes a day.

What do I need to watch out for when exercising during pregnancy?

Keep the following tips in mind when exercising:

  • Drink plenty of water before, during and after your workout.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothing and do not exercise outside when it is very hot or humid.
  • Avoid standing still or lying flat on your back. Both of these positions can decrease the amount of blood returning to your heart.
  • Remember that your body is going through a lot of changes – your need for oxygen increases, your joints become more relaxed and your center of gravity shifts. Take these changes into account when you choose exercises.

If you experience any of the following while exercising, stop right away and call your health care professional:

  • Dizziness or faintness
  • Bleeding or fluid leaking from the vagina
  • Chest pain
  • Calf pain or swelling
  • Regular, painful contractions

Always use your common sense when exercising and, if you’re ever in doubt, ask your obstetrician.