For most people, exercise is beneficial to overall health and wellness. This includes pregnant women. If you are healthy and your pregnancy is normal (not high-risk), it should be safe for you to exercise. Many doctors encourage it. Talk to your doctor before you start exercising when you are pregnant. He or she will tell you what’s okay. You can discuss what will be the best kind of exercise for you.
Path to improved wellness
Many women wonder if they should exercise when they are pregnant. They worry that physical activity may increase their risk of miscarriage. Later in their pregnancy, they may worry it will cause their baby to be born early or at a low birth weight. Exercise does not cause any of those things. Here are other common concerns pregnant women have about exercise.
Is it safe for me to exercise during pregnancy?
Check with your doctor to make sure that it’s safe for you to exercise. Some medical conditions make exercise harmful to you or your baby. If you have any of these conditions, you should not exercise:
- Certain kinds of lung or heart diseases.
- Cervical insufficiency.
- Severe anemia.
- Preeclampsia (high blood pressure induced by pregnancy).
- Preterm labor during the pregnancy.
- Placenta previa after 26th week of pregnancy.
- Pregnancy with multiples and having risk factors for preterm labor.
Most of these conditions are uncommon. If you have no serious medical problems and a normal pregnancy, it’s probably safe for you to exercise.
How will exercise help me during pregnancy?
There are many benefits to exercising while pregnant. Exercise:
- Promotes a healthy weight gain.
- Reduces back pain.
- Helps with constipation.
- Improves your overall fitness.
- Strengthens your body and prepares it for labor and delivery.
- Helps you lose weight after your baby is born.
How should I start an exercise program?
Before starting an exercise program, check with your doctor. If your doctor approves, you can start exercising at a low level. Make sure your exercise does not cause pain, shortness of breath, or excessive tiredness. You may then slowly increase your activity. Reduce your exercise level if you feel:
- short of breath
- very tired
Some women establish an exercise routine before getting pregnant. If you have, it’s easier to keep exercising during pregnancy. If you haven’t exercised before, be sure to start very slowly. Many women find that they need to slow down their level of exercise during pregnancy.
What types of exercises are best when I’m pregnant?
The most comfortable exercises are those that don’t require your body to bear extra weight. Swimming and stationary cycling are good options. Walking and low-impact aerobics are usually well tolerated. You can also try modified yoga or modified Pilates. You and your doctor will need to decide what’s best for you and your baby.
How much should I exercise when I’m pregnant?
Pregnant women should get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week. At this level, you should still be able to talk, but not sing. Divide the 150 minutes up however you like. You could do 30 minutes of exercise 5 times a week. Or you could do 10-minute increments several times a day on most days. If you were physically active before you became pregnant, you may be able to keep up your current routine. Always talk to your doctor first.
Things to consider
Exercising while pregnant is generally safe. Even so, there are still some things you need to watch out for. Avoid activities that increase your risk of falls or injury. This includes contact sports or vigorous sports. Even mild injuries to the stomach area can be serious when you’re pregnant. After the first 3 months of pregnancy, it’s best to avoid exercising while lying on your back. The weight of the baby may interfere with blood circulation. Also avoid long periods of standing.
When the weather is hot, exercise in the early morning or late evening. This will help prevent you from getting overheated. If you’re exercising indoors, make sure the room has enough ventilation. Use a fan to help keep you cool. Drink plenty of fluids, even if you don’t feel thirsty.
Make sure that you’re eating a well-balanced diet. Pregnancy alone increases your food requirements by 300 calories a day. Exercising burns extra calories that your baby needs to grow and develop. If you exercise, ask your doctor how many additional calories you should get.
What problems should I tell my doctor about?
Listen to your body. Talk to your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Blood or fluid coming from your vagina.
- Sudden or severe abdominal or vaginal pain.
- Contractions that go on for 30 minutes after you stop exercising.
- Chest pain.
- Shortness of breath.
- Headache that is severe or won’t go away.
- Dizziness and nausea.
- Dim or blurry vision.
Questions to ask your doctor
- Do I have any health conditions that make it unsafe for me to exercise while pregnant?
- Am I at risk for preterm labor?
- What are the best exercises for me to do, based on my current physical health?
- Are there any specific exercises I should not do?
- What types of exercise could hurt me or my baby?
- Can I exercise all the way until the baby is born?
- How long after the baby is born can I start exercising again?
Copyright © American Academy of Family Physicians
This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.