Many pregnancy websites recommend exercise during pregnancy for its many health benefits. Just like when a woman is not pregnant, exercise generally improves overall health and wellness. During pregnancy, exercise can also help relieve some of the discomfort that comes with being pregnant and help prepare the body for labor and delivery. But many women wonder how much is too much. There are many organizations that publish guidelines for exercise during pregnancy, including the American Pregnancy Association, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Mayo Clinic, and BabyCenter.
Some thoughts in these publications on exercise during pregnancy include:
- Ask your doctor: Exercise during pregnancy is usually beneficial, but your doctor may advise against it if you have certain health conditions, such as preeclampsia, anemia, cervical insufficiency, placental problems, or heart disease. It’s very important to get a doctor’s okay on an exercise program before beginning it, especially during pregnancy.
- Maintain activity: Most doctors recommend that if a woman was active before pregnancy, she continue exercising during her pregnancy as long as it is safe and comfortable. If you are a beginner, try slow low-impact exercises such as walking and cycling first.
- Exercise in safe places: Exercising on flat, level, nonslip surfaces may help prevent certain injuries and accidents.
- Wear proper attire: Choose shoes that fit and offer support and wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothes. Some experts advise that during certain exercises women wear a sports bra with plenty of support to protect the breasts and a belly support belt to avoid discomfort later in pregnancy.
- Stay hydrated: Drink water before, during, and after each workout.
- Get up slowly after working out on the floor: Getting up too quickly can cause dizziness.
- Wait to exercise after eating: Finish meals at least one hour before exercising.
- Eat enough calories: Certain exercise programs require more calories, and being pregnant can require additional nutritional intake as well. When adding caloric value, ensure that it is healthy, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean meats.
- Practice labor-related exercises: Exercises that can help during labor include pelvic tilts and squats. These exercises help many expectant mothers feel more prepared for labor and delivery.
- Warm-up and cool down: It is advised that pregnant women do a warm-up with stretching and a cool-down with each exercise.
Be Cautious About:
- Trying to lose weight: Exercising excessively to try to lose weight is not advised during pregnancy.
- Over-doing it: As a rule, you should be able to carry on a normal conversation while exercising. If you aren’t able to do so, this may mean you are pushing your body too hard.
- Exercising in heat: Avoid hot or humid temperatures.
- Exercising heavily on-and-off: Avoid doing intense exercises followed by long periods of no activity.
- Avoiding standing still or lying flat on your back: Standing still for too long can cause blood to pool in the feet and legs which can decrease blood pressure. Lying flat on your back can also decrease blood pressure because the uterus presses onto a large vein which pushes blood to the heart.
- Tiring yourself out: Avoid exercising to the point of exhaustion.
- Forgetting to breathe: Avoid holding your breath for an extended period.
Stop exercising IMMEDIATELY and consult with medical professionals if you notice any of the following:
- Fluid or blood leaking from the vagina
- Regular, painful uterine contractions
- Weak muscles
- A dizzy or faint feeling
- Chest pains
- Pain or swelling in the calf
- Shortness of breath
This page is intended solely as an educational tool for parents. It is not intended as – and should not be mistaken for – medical advice.