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  • Writer's pictureAssociates of OBGYN

Should I Exercise During Pregnancy?

While many of our patients enjoy exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle, many questions about exercise come up once a woman is pregnant.. and there is a lot of information out there - good and bad - that can add to the confusion.

You may have heard things like:

-You must stop running and lifting weights when you are pregnant

-You can’t get your heart rate up too much -You can only do what you were doing before pregnancy

-Exercising can cause make you dehydrated or overheated

-You can’t work your abs!!

Working out will hurt your baby!

However, despite all these unsupported myths, there are some good studies about potential benefits to exercise in pregnancy. Physical activity does not increase your risk of miscarriage, low birth weight, or early delivery.

Did you know that, according to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, exercising during pregnancy may make you more likely to have a vaginal delivery?

They also say that exercise during pregnancy can decrease the incidence of:

● Excessive weight gain during pregnancy

● Gestational diabetes mellitus

● Gestational hypertensive disorders

● Preterm birth

● Cesarean birth

● Lower birth weight infants

● Need for vacuum or forceps at delivery (as much as a 25% decrease!)

When it comes to pre-eclampsia, there really seems to be a benefit to exercise: High levels of physical activity can add up to 20-35% decreased risk of severe pre-eclampsia.

Pre-pregnancy, exercise is also pretty powerful: There’s a 40% reduction in pre-eclampsia risk with 5-6 hrs/week of moderate exercise

However, if pre-eclampsia does develop with severe features (like fetal growth restriction) moderate to vigorous exercise should be avoided, as some studies suggest reduced placental blood flow.

If you are new to exercise, walking, swimming, stationary biking, and modified yoga or Pilates are generally considered the safest activities during pregnancy

Do Not exercise during your pregnancy if you have any of these issues:

Hemodynamically significant heart disease

Restrictive lung disease

Incompetent cervix or cerclage

Multiple gestation at risk of premature labor

Persistent second- or third-trimester bleeding

Placenta previa after 26 weeks of gestation

Premature labor during the current pregnancy

Ruptured membranes

Preeclampsia or pregnancy-induced hypertension

Talk you doctor before exercising during your pregnancy if you have:

Severe anemia

Unevaluated maternal cardiac arrhythmia

Chronic bronchitis

Poorly controlled type 1 diabetes

Extreme morbid obesity

Extreme underweight (BMI <12)

History of extremely sedentary lifestyle

Intrauterine growth restriction in current pregnancy

Poorly controlled hypertension

Orthopedic limitations

Poorly controlled seizure disorder

Poorly controlled hyperthyroidism

Heavy smoker


Moderate-intensity exercise (enough to make you start sweating; you can breathe comfortably with your mouth open but not closed) for at least 20–30 minutes per day on most or all days of the week

For women who don’t currently exercise: Start with 5 minutes per day, then increase 5-10 minutes per week until the 20-30 min daily goal is achieved.

Both aerobic exercise and strength training are safe–before, during, and after an uncomplicated pregnancy.

Keep in mind:

-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 could increase your risk of injury

-The extra weight in the front of your body from the pregnancy changes your center of gravity

- this can put more stress on your low back and pelvis. You may also be more unstable and your balance may be affected. Take precautions not to fall.

-Your need for oxygen increases when you are pregnant. During exercise, blood flow and oxygen are directed to your muscles and away from other areas of your body. This may affect your ability to do strenuous exercise, especially if you are overweight or obese

-If you begin to lose weight, you may need to increase the calories you are consuming


Contact sports with high risk of trauma

Scuba diving

Sports with a high fall risk (skating, horseback riding, gymnastics, rock climbing, etc.)

Precautions to take:

Avoid dehydration or becoming overheated (especially in the first trimester)- drink plenty of water before, during, and after exercising and avoid exercising outside when it is very hot and humid. Wear loose fitting clothes and exercise in a temperature controlled room Wear a sports bra that gives you a lot of support to help protect your breasts. Later in pregnancy, an abdominal support band may reduce discomfort while running or walking Avoid lying flat on your back as much as possible - the enlarged uterus can put pressure on a large vein that brings blood back to your heart. This can cause a temporary drop in your blood pressure

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