Exercise During Pregnancy

As you prepare to bring your new baby into the world, staying healthy and energized is important. With other activities keeping you busy—decorating the nursery, buying baby gear, and considering new financial responsibilities—doing some safe exercises during pregnancy can give you the energy you need to tackle this busy time of life.

Safety First

Before you begin any exercise routine during pregnancy, talk with your OB-GYN about what is safe for you. Your doctor will take your pregnancy and personal health history into account to determine if it is OK to work out during your pregnancy.

In some instances, exercise during pregnancy may not be appropriate. Your doctor may tell you to avoid physical activity if you are experiencing:

  • Cervical insufficiency, which means that your cervix can prematurely dilate
  • Conditions affecting the heart and lungs
  • Preeclampsia
  • Preterm labor
  • Severe anemia

How Exercise Helps

Physical activity provides a wealth of benefits to you and your baby. Regular exercise can help you feel more comfortable by easing constipation and minimizing back pain. The right exercise routine can also optimize the function of your heart and boost your energy levels. Exercise can also reduce feelings of depression and anxiety.

Plus, working out can reduce your risk of potential pregnancy-related complications, including gestational diabetes and preeclampsia.

According to the American Pregnancy Association, some studies also indicate that women who exercise during pregnancy experience shorter labor and less fatigue when in labor and require fewer medical interventions during delivery.

Also keep in mind that exercising while you are pregnant will set you up for success when it comes time to shed that extra baby weight. When you stay physically active, you are less likely to gain more than the recommended 25 to 35 pounds, which doctors consider normal for pregnant women.

Here are some safe exercises to consider during pregnancy:

  • Prenatal yoga
  • Swimming
  • Walking

Exercise Options to Avoid During Pregnancy

If you exercised regularly prior to your pregnancy, it is typically safe to continue with most routines while you are pregnant. However, some exercises can pose harm to you and your baby, so it's important to talk with your doctor about what to avoid.

Some of the exercise options that you may need to shelve until after your baby is born include:

  • Contact sports that increase your likelihood of taking a blow to the abdominal area
  • Exercises where falling is a risk, such as downhill snow skiing, gymnastics and surfing
  • High-risk adventure activities such as scuba diving and skydiving
  • Workouts in a hot room, such as hot yoga, which could cause you to become overheated

Signs You Need to Stop Exercise

Exercise during pregnancy can sometimes cause you to experience unusual symptoms. For example, you may notice that you lose your balance more easily, find yourself short of breath from time to time, tire out more quickly than usual, and feel a stronger, faster heartbeat.

However, certain symptoms could indicate that your health and the health of your baby is at risk. Immediately stop exercising and seek medical support if you notice symptoms that are especially uncomfortable or unusual, including:

  • Chest pain
  • Feeling dizzy or faint
  • Painful uterine contractions
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling and pain in the calves
  • Vaginal bleeding or excessive fluid leakage from the vagina
  • Weakness in the muscles

About Overstretching

As your body prepares for giving birth, it produces extra hormones that relax the tissues surrounding your joints. This relaxation helps ease the process of delivery. However, during the months leading up to your delivery, paying attention to your joints during exercise is important. The relaxation provided by the pregnancy hormones could give you a false sense of how deeply you can get into a stretch. Be mindful and only stretch as far as you would have prior to your pregnancy.

Consider working with a personal trainer at Henry Mayo Fitness and Health for some guidance on safe exercise options during your pregnancy. Our fitness team can also provide information about when and how to incorporate exercise back into your life after baby arrives. Group classes at The Performance Institute at Henry Mayo Fitness and Health, such as Pilates, offer fun and accessible opportunities to get back in shape.