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 may prevent gestational diabetes (diabetes that develops during pregnancy), relieve stress, and build more stamina needed for labour and delivery.
If you were physically active before your pregnancy, you should continue your activity in moderation.
Don’t try to exercise at your former level; instead, do what’s most comfortable for you now. Low impact aerobics are encouraged versus high impact.
An obstetrician should closely follow the pregnant competitive athlete.
If you have never exercised regularly before, you can safely begin an exercise program during pregnancy after consulting with your healthcare provider, but do not try a new, strenuous activity. For example, walking is considered safe to initiate when pregnant.
Is It Safe To Exercise During Pregnancy?
If you are healthy and your pregnancy is normal, it is safe to continue or start regular physical activity.
Physical activity does not increase your risk of miscarriage, low birth weight, or early delivery.
However, it is important to discuss exercise with your obstetrician or another health care team member during your early prenatal visits.
If your health care professional gives you the OK to exercise, you can discuss what activities you can do safely.
Talk to your health care provider about exercising during pregnancy. For most pregnant women, exercising is safe and healthy for you and your baby.
If you and your pregnancy are healthy, exercise won’t increase your risk of having a miscarriage (when a baby dies in the womb before 20 weeks of pregnancy), a premature baby (born before 37 weeks of pregnancy) or a baby born with low birth weight (less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces).
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Are There Certain Conditions That Do Exercise During Pregnancy Unsafe?
Women with the following conditions or pregnancy complications should not exercise during pregnancy:
- Certain types of heart and lung diseases
- Being pregnant with twins or triplets (or more) with risk factors for preterm labour
- Placenta previa after 26 weeks of pregnancy
- Preterm labour or ruptured membranes (your water has broken) during this pregnancy, regular physical activity
- Preeclampsia or pregnancy-induced high blood pressure
- Severe anemia
How Much Should I Exercise During Pregnancy?
Ideally, pregnant women should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week.
Anaerobic activity is when you move large body muscles (like those in the legs and arms) rhythmically.
Moderate intensity means you are moving enough to raise your heart rate and start sweating. You still can talk usually, but you cannot sing.
Examples of moderate-intensity aerobic activity include brisk walking and general gardening (raking, weeding, or digging).
You can divide the 150 minutes into 30-minute workouts on five days of the week or into smaller 10-minute workouts throughout each day.
If you are new to exercise, start slowly and gradually increase your activity. Begin with as little as 5 minutes a day. Then, add 5 minutes each week until you can stay active for 30 minutes a day.
If you were very active before pregnancy, you could keep doing the same workouts with your obstetrician’s approval.
However, if you start to lose weight, you may need to increase the number of calories you eat.
How Many Exercises Do You Need During Pregnancy?
Healthy pregnant women need at least 2½ hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week.
Aerobic activities make you breathe faster and deeper and make your heart beat faster.
Moderate-intensity means you’re active enough to sweat and increase your heart rate. For example, taking a brisk walk is an example of moderate-intensity aerobic activity.
If you can’t usually talk during an activity, you may be working too hard.
You don’t have to do all 2½ hours at once. Instead, break it up through the week. For example, do 30 minutes of exercise on most or all days.
If this sounds like a lot, split up the 30 minutes by doing something active for 10 minutes 3 times each day.
Why Is Physical Activity During Pregnancy Good For You?
For healthy pregnant women, regular exercise can:
Keep your mind and body healthy. Physical activity can help you feel good and give you extra energy. It also makes your heart, lungs and blood vessels strong and enables you to stay fit.
Help you gain the right amount of weight during pregnancy.
Ease some common discomforts of pregnancy, such as constipation, back pain and swelling in your legs, ankles and feet.
Help you manage stress and sleep better. Stress is worry, strain or pressure that you feel in response to things in your life.
Help reduce your risk of pregnancy complications, such as gestational diabetes and preeclampsia.
Gestational diabetes is a kind of diabetes that can happen during pregnancy. It occurs when your body has too much sugar (called glucose) in the blood.
Preeclampsia is a type of high blood pressure some women get after the 20th week of pregnancy or after giving birth.
These conditions can increase your risk of having complications during pregnancy, such as premature birth (birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy).
Help reduce your risk of having a cesarean birth (also called a c-section). Cesarean birth is surgery in which your baby is born through a cut that your doctor makes in your belly and uterus.
Prepare your body for labour and birth. Activities such as prenatal yoga and Pilates can help you practice breathing, meditation and other calming methods that may help you manage labour pain.
Regular exercise can help give you energy and strength to get through labour.
What Changes Occur In The Body During Pregnancy That Can Affect My Exercise Routine?
Your body goes through many changes during pregnancy. Therefore, it is important to choose exercises that take these changes into account:
The hormones made during pregnancy cause the ligaments that support your joints to become relaxed. This makes the joints more mobile and at risk of injury. Avoid jerky, bouncy, or high-impact motions that can increase your risk of being hurt.
The extra weight in the front of your body shifts your centre of gravity. This places stress on joints and muscles, especially those in your pelvis and lower back.
Because you are less stable and more likely to lose your balance, you are at greater risk of falling.
When you exercise, oxygen and blood flow are directed to your muscles and away from other areas of your body.
While you are pregnant, your need for oxygen increases. This may affect your ability to do strenuous exercise, especially if you are overweight or obese.
Who Should Not Exercise During Pregnancy?
If you have a medical problem, such as asthma, heart disease, or diabetes, exercise may not be advisable.
Exercise may also be harmful if you have a pregnancy-related condition such as:
- Bleeding or spotting
- Low placenta
- Threatened or recurrent miscarriage
- Previous premature births or history of early labour
- Weak cervix
Talk with your doctor before beginning an exercise program. They can also give you personal exercise guidelines based on your medical history.
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What Exercises Are Safe During Pregnancy?
Most exercises are safe to perform during pregnancy, as long as you exercise with caution and do not overdo it.
The safest and most productive activities are swimming, brisk walking, indoor stationary cycling, step 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.
Tennis and racquetball are generally safe activities, but changes in balance during pregnancy may affect rapid movements.
Other activities such as jogging can be done in moderation, especially if you were doing them before your pregnancy.
You may want to choose exercises or activities that do not require outstanding balance or coordination, especially later in pregnancy.
What Should Exercises Be Avoided During Pregnancy?
Some specific exercises and activities 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 includes 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.
What Should A Pregnancy Exercise Program Consist Of?
For total fitness, a pregnancy exercise program should strengthen and condition your muscles.
Always begin by warming up for 5 minutes and stretching for 5 minutes. Include at least 15 minutes of cardiovascular activity.
Measure your heart rate at times of peak activity. Then, follow the aerobic activity with 5 to 10 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.
- 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 your exercise program.
- Finish eating at least 1 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 usually talk while exercising, you are probably over-exerting yourself and should slow down your activity.
Benefits Of Exercise During Pregnancy?
Regular exercise during pregnancy benefits you and your fetus in these critical ways:
- Reduces back pain
- Eases constipation
- May decrease your risk of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and cesarean delivery.
- Promotes healthy weight gain during pregnancy
- It improves your overall general fitness and strengthens your heart and blood vessels.
- It helps you to lose the baby weight after your baby is born.
Precautions To Take When Exercising During Pregnancy
There are a few precautions that pregnant women should keep in mind during exercise:
Drink plenty of water before, during, and after your workout.
Signs of dehydration include:
- A racing or pounding heart.
- Urinating only small amounts or having dark yellow urine.
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.
Avoid becoming overheated, especially in the first trimester. Drink plenty of water, wear loose-fitting clothing, and exercise in a temperature-controlled room. Do not exercise outside when it is very hot or humid.
Avoid standing still or lying flat on your back as much as possible when you lie on your back, your uterus presses on a large vein that returns blood to the heart.
Standing motionless can cause blood to pool in your legs and feet. In addition, these positions may cause your blood pressure to decrease for a short time.
What Kinds Of Activities Are Safe During Pregnancy?
If you’re healthy and exercised before you got pregnant, it’s usually safe to continue your activities during pregnancy.
Check with your provider to be sure. For example, if you’re a runner or a tennis player or you do other kinds of intense exercise, you may be able to keep doing your workouts when you’re pregnant. However, as your belly gets bigger later in pregnancy, you may need to change some activities or ease your movements.
If your provider says it’s OK for you to exercise, choose activities you enjoy. If you didn’t exercise before you were pregnant, now is a great time to start.
Talk to your provider about safe activities. Then, start slowly and build up your fitness little by little.
For example, start with 5 minutes of activity each day, and work your way up to 30 minutes each day.
These activities usually are safe during pregnancy:
Taking a brisk walk is a great workout that doesn’t strain your joints and muscles. If you’re new to exercise, this is a great activity.
Swimming And Water Workouts.
The water supports the weight of your growing baby, and moving against the water helps keep your heart rate up.
It’s also easy on your joints and muscles. So if you have low back pain when you do other activities, try swimming.
Riding A Stationary Bike.
This is safer than riding a regular bicycle during pregnancy. You’re less likely to fall off a stationary bike than a normal bike, even as your belly grows.
Yoga And Pilates Classes.
Tell your yoga or Pilates teacher that you’re pregnant.
The instructor can help you modify or avoid poses that may be unsafe for pregnant women, such as lying on your belly or flat on your back (after the first trimester).
Some gyms and community centres offer prenatal yoga and Pilates classes just for pregnant women.
Low-impact Aerobics Classes.
During low-impact aerobics, you always have one foot on the ground or equipment.
Examples of low-impact aerobics include walking, riding a stationary bike and using an elliptical machine.
Low-impact aerobics don’t put as much strain on your body as high-impact aerobics do.
During high-impact aerobics, both feet leave the ground at the same time. Examples include running, jumping rope and doing jumping jacks.
Tell your instructor that you’re pregnant so that they can help you modify your workout if needed.
Strength training can help you build muscle and make your bones strong.
It’s safe to work out with weights as long as they’re not too heavy. Ask your provider about how much you can lift.
You don’t need to belong to a gym or own special equipment to be active. You can walk in a safe area or do exercise videos at home.
Or find ways to be active in your everyday life, like doing yard work or taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
Is Physical Activity Safe For All Pregnant Women?
No. For some women, exercise is not safe during pregnancy. Your provider can help you understand whether a practice is safe for you. The following conditions may make it unsafe to exercise during pregnancy:
Preterm labour, bleeding from the vagina, or your water breaking (also called ruptured membranes).
Preterm labour is labour that happens before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Bleeding from the vagina and having your water break may be signs of preterm labour.
She was pregnant with twins, triplets or more (also called multiples) with other risk factors for preterm labour.
If you’re pregnant with multiples, ask your provider if it’s safe for you to exercise. For example, your provider may ask you not to do intense or high-impact activities, such as running. Instead, you may be able to do low-impact exercises, like walking, prenatal yoga or swimming.
Cervical insufficiency or a cerclage. The cervix opens the uterus (womb) and is at the top of the vagina.
Cervical insufficiency (also called the incompetent cervix) means your cervix opens (dilates) too early during pregnancy, usually without pain or contractions. Cervical deficiency can cause premature birth and miscarriage.
If you have cervical insufficiency or a short cervix, your provider may recommend cerclage. This is a stitch your provider puts in your cervix to help keep it closed so that your baby isn’t born too early. A short cervix means the length of your cervix (also called cervical length) is faster than average.
Gestational hypertension or preeclampsia. Gestational hypertension is high blood pressure during pregnancy. It starts after 20 weeks of pregnancy and goes away after you give birth.
Placenta previa after 26 weeks of pregnancy.
The placenta lies very low in the uterus and covers all or part of the cervix. The placenta grows in your uterus and supplies the baby with food and oxygen through the umbilical cord.
Placenta previa can cause heavy bleeding and other complications later in pregnancy.
Severe anemia or sure heart or lung conditions.
Anemia is when you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen to the rest of your body. If you have a heart or lung condition, ask your provider if it’s safe to exercise during pregnancy.
What Aren’t Kinds Of Activities Safe During Pregnancy?
Be careful and check with your provider when choosing your activities. During pregnancy, don’t do:
Any activity with many jerkies, bouncing movements that may cause you to fall, like horseback riding, downhill skiing, off-road cycling, gymnastics or skating.
Any sport in which you may be hit in the belly, such as ice hockey, boxing, soccer or basketball.
Any exercise that makes you lie flat on your back (after the first trimester), like sit-ups. When you lie on your back, your uterus pressure a large vein that brings blood back to your heart.
Lying on your back can cause your blood pressure to drop and limit blood flow to your baby.
Activities can cause you to hit the water with great force, like water skiing, surfing or diving.
Skydiving or scuba diving. Scuba diving can lead to decompression sickness. This is when dangerous gas bubbles form in your baby’s body.
You are exercising at a high altitude (more than 6,000 feet) unless you live at a high altitude. Altitude is the height of something above the ground.
For example, if you’re at a high altitude, you’re probably in the mountains. This is because exercising at high altitudes during pregnancy can lower the amount of oxygen that reaches your baby.
Activities that may make your body temperature too high, like Bikram yoga (also called hot yoga) or exercising outside on hot, humid days.
During Bikram yoga, you do yoga in a room where the temperature is 95 F to 100 F.
It’s not safe for pregnant women because it can cause hyperthermia, a condition that happens when your body temperature gets too high.
Some studies suggest that spending too much time in a sauna or hot tub may make your body temperature too high and increase your risk of having a baby who has congenital disabilities.
To be safe, don’t spend more than 15 minutes in a sauna or more than ten at a time in a hot tub.
What Are Warning Signs That I Should Stop Exercising?
Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or a beginner, watch for the following warning signs when you exercise. If you have any of them, stop and call your obstetrician:
- Bleeding from the vagina
- Feeling dizzy or faint
- Shortness of breath before starting an exercise
- Chest pain
- Muscle weakness
- Calf pain or swelling
- Regular, painful contractions of the uterus
- Fluid gushing or leaking from the vagina
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