Exercise Information for Pregnant Moms

Maintaining a regular exercise routine throughout your pregnancy can help you stay healthy and feel your best. Regular exercise during pregnancy can improve your posture and decrease some common discomforts such as backaches and fatigue. There is evidence that physical activity can relieve stress, prevent gestational diabetes (diabetes that develops during pregnancy), improve mood, improve sleep, and build more stamina needed for labor and birth. In addition, exercising and eating healthy in pregnancy can help you to get back in shape faster after delivery. If you were physically active before your pregnancy, you should be able to continue your activity in moderation. If you have never exercised regularly before, you can safely begin an exercise program during pregnancy.

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends 30 minutes or more of moderate exercise per day on most if not all days of the week, unless you have a medical or pregnancy complication. If you haven't been exercising before your pregnancy, walking is a great way to get started.

Some other examples of good exercises while pregnant are swimming, stationary bicycling, yoga, and low impact aerobics.

How is exercise beneficial for my baby?

  • Exercising during pregnancy has been shown to promote a normal birth weight for your baby, which reduces your baby's risk of developing diseases such as diabetes.
  • Exercising while pregnany helps boost the development of the fetus' organs.
  • In the 2008 Journal of Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, researchers reported that maternal exercise significantly lowers the heart rate of fetuses. This research suggests that exercising while pregnant might even provide some protection against cardiovascular disease for a fetus.

I have other medical conditions or problems with my pregnancy, can I exercise during pregnancy?

Prior to performing any exercises in pregnancy, you should consult with your healthcare provider to make sure you do not have a obstetrical or medical condition that may limit your ability to exercise during pregnancy. Your health care provider can also give you personal exercise guidelines based on your medical history.

 You may want to limit your exercise in pregnancy is if you have any of the following conditions:

Women with these conditions should not exercise during pregnancy: Women with these conditions should talk to their healthcare provider to make sure exercise will be safe:
Hemodynamically significant heart disease Recurrent miscarriage or threatened miscarriage in current pregnancy
Restrictive lung disease Severe anemia
Incompetent cervix/cerclage Unevaluated maternal cardiac arrhythmia
Multiple gestation at risk for premature labor Chronic bronchitis
Persistent second- or third-trimester bleeding Intrauterine growth restriction in current pregnancy
Placenta previa after 26 weeks of gestation Poorly controlled hypertension
Premature labor during the current pregnancy Orthopedic limitations
Ruptured membranes Poorly controlled seizure disorder
Preeclampsia/pregnancy-induced hypertension Poorly controlled hyperthyroidism

What type of exercises can I do during pregnancy?

Most exercises are safe to perform during pregnancy, as long as you exercise with caution and do not overdo it. Avoid laying flat on your back and make sure if doing floor exercises to be in slight tilt. A wedge or towel is an easy way to accomplish this.

The safest and most productive activities are swimming, brisk walking, indoor stationary cycling, treadmill or elliptical machines, and low-impact aerobics (taught by a certified aerobics instructor). These activities carry little risk of injury, benefit your entire body, and can be continued until birth.

Other activities such as jogging can be done in moderation, especially if you were doing them before your pregnancy. Strength training or weight training is also acceptable in pregnancy if you use a low level of weight and concentrate on toning muscle groups not building new muscle. Avoid heavy lifting that requires you to squat or bear down during the activity. Isometric training and Nautilus® machines are ideal for this.

Tennis and racquetball are generally safe activities, but changes in balance during pregnancy may affect rapid movements. You may want to choose exercises or activities that do not require great balance or coordination, especially later in pregnancy.

What should my pregnancy exercise program contain?

For total fitness, a pregnancy exercise program should strengthen and condition your muscles.

Always begin by warming up for five minutes and stretching for five minutes. Include at least fifteen minutes of cardiovascular activity. Measure your heart rate at times of peak activity. Follow aerobic activity with five to ten minutes of gradually slower exercise that ends with gentle stretching.

Here are some basic exercise guidelines for pregnant women:

  • Wear loose fitting, comfortable clothes as well as a good support bra. Sometimes your bra size will change during pregnancy, so make sure to be refitted.
  • Consider a maternity belt to provide extra support to low back and low abdomen.
  • Choose shoes that are designed for the type of exercise you do. Proper shoes are your best protection against injury.
  • Exercise on a flat, level surface to prevent injury.
  • Consume enough calories to meet the needs of your pregnancy (300 more calories per day than before you were pregnant) as well as calories used for your exercise program.
  • Finish eating at least one hour before exercising.
  • Drink water before, during, and after your workout.
  • After doing floor exercises, get up slowly and gradually to prevent dizziness.
  • Never exercise to the point of exhaustion. If you cannot talk normally while exercising, you are probably over-exerting yourself and should slow down your activity.

What pregnancy changes may affect exercise?

Physical changes during pregnancy create extra demands on your body. Keeping in mind the changes listed below, remember that you need to listen to your body and adjust your activities or exercise routine as necessary. Remember to include a gentle stretching routine every day to help prevent injury and relieve some pregnancy-related discomforts.

  • Your developing baby and other internal changes require more oxygen and energy.
  • Hormones produced during pregnancy cause the ligaments that support your joints to stretch, increasing the risk of injury.
  • The extra weight and the uneven distribution of your weight shift your center of gravity.
  • The extra weight also puts stress on joints and muscles in the lower back and pelvic area and makes it easier for you to lose your balance.

Exercise Warnings for Pregnant Women

Stop exercising and consult your health care provider if you:

  • Feel chest pain
  • Have difficulty breathing before or during exercise
  • Have a headache
  • Notice an absence or decrease in fetal movement
  • Feel faint or dizzy
  • Feel cold or clammy
  • Have vaginal bleeding
  • Have a sudden gush of fluid from the vagina or a trickle of fluid that leaks steadily
  • Notice an irregular or rapid heartbeat
  • Have sudden swelling or calf pain
  • Have muscle weakness
  • Have significant abdominal pain or persistent contractions

What exercises should be avoided during pregnancy?

There are certain exercises and activities that can be harmful if performed during pregnancy. They include:

  • Holding your breath during any activity
  • Activities where falling is likely (such as skiing and horseback riding)
  • Contact sports such as softball, football, basketball, and volleyball
  • Any exercise that may cause even mild abdominal trauma such as activities that include jarring motions or rapid changes in direction
  • Activities that require extensive jumping, hopping, skipping, bouncing, or running
  • Deep knee bends, full sit-ups, double leg raises, and straight-leg toe touches
  • Bouncing while stretching
  • Waist-twisting movements while standing
  • Heavy exercise spurts followed by long periods of no activity
  • Exercise in hot, humid weather