Exercise during pregnancy

Most commonly asked questions:

  1. Is exercise safe during pregnancy?
  2. What are the benefits of exercise during pregnancy?
  3. What to avoid & types of exercises during pregnancy to be avoided?
  4. What are the basic guidelines that need to be added while planning exercise during pregnancy?
  5. Which type of exercises during pregnancy is beneficial and safe?
  6. What are the Body changes that affect exercise during pregnancy?
  7. How Can I Get Started?
  8. Who Should Not Exercise?
  9. How Soon Can I Exercise After Delivery?
  10. When to stop

Maintaining a regular exercise routine throughout your pregnancy can help you stay healthy and feel your best. It can also improve your posture and decrease some common discomforts like backaches and fatigue. There is evidence that it may prevent gestational diabetes (diabetes that develops during pregnancy), relieve stress, and build more stamina needed for labor and delivery.

  1. Is exercise during pregnancy safe?
    Overall and in most cases, exercise is safe during pregnancy. You will usually find it is even recommended. Typically, the first rule of thumb is if you were physically active before you were pregnant, it is likely safe to remain active during pregnancy. More than likely, your healthcare provider will tell you to remain active, as long as it is comfortable and there are no other health conditions suggesting otherwise.
    Now is not the time to exercise for weight loss, however, proper exercise during pregnancy will likely help with weight loss after the delivery of your baby. Exercise does not put you at risk for miscarriage in a normal pregnancy. You should consult with your health care provider before starting any new exercise routine. 
  2. What are the benefits of exercise during pregnancy? Exercising for 30 minutes on most, or all, days can benefit your health during pregnancy. Exercising for just 20 minutes, 3 or 4 days a week, is still beneficial, as well. The important thing is to be active and keeps blood flowing. No doubt about it, exercise is a big plus for both you and your baby (if complications don’t limit your ability to exercise). It can help you:
    • Feel better: At a time when you wonder how this strange body can possibly be yours, exercise can increase your sense of control and boost your energy level. Not only does it make you feel better by releasing endorphins (naturally occurring chemicals in the brain), appropriate exercise can relieve backaches and improve your posture by strengthening and toning muscles in your back, butt, and thighs and reduce constipation by accelerating movement in your intestines. Exercise also prevent wear and tear on your joints (which become loosened during pregnancy due to normal hormonal changes) by activating the lubricating fluid in your joints. It help you sleep better by relieving the stress and anxiety that might make you restless at night.
    • Look better. Exercise increases the blood flow to your skin, giving you a healthy glow.
    • Prepare you and your body for birth. Strong muscles and a fit heart can greatly ease labor and delivery. Gaining control over your breathing can help you manage pain. And in the event of a lengthy labor, increased endurance can be a real help.
    • Regain your pre-pregnancy body more quickly. You’ll gain less fat weight during your pregnancy if you continue to exercise (assuming you exercised before becoming pregnant). But don’t expect or try to lose weight by exercising while you’re pregnant. For most women, the goal is to maintain their fitness level throughout pregnancy.
  3. What to avoid & types of exercises during pregnancy to be avoided?
    • Activities where falling is more likely
    • Exercise that may cause any abdominal trauma, including activities that with jarring motions,
  4.    contact sports or rapid changes in direction
    • Activities that require extensive jumping, hopping, skipping, or bouncing
    • Bouncing while stretching
    • Waist twisting movements while standing
    • Intense bursts of exercise followed by long periods of no activity
    • Exercise in hot, humid weather
    • Do not hold your breath for an extended period of time
    • Do not exercise to the point of exhaustion
  6. What are the basic guidelines need be added while planning exercise during      pregnancy?
    • Be sure to wear loose fitting, comfortable clothes, as well as, a good supportive bra.
    • Choose well-fitting shoes that are designed for the type of exercise you are doing.
    • Exercise on a flat, level surface to prevent injury.
    • Eat enough healthy calories to meet the needs of your pregnancy, as well as, your exercise program.
    • Finish eating at least one hour before exercising, see also pregnancy nutrition.
  7. Drink plenty of water before, during and after your workout.
  8. Which type of exercises during pregnancy is beneficial and safe?
    Before you begin exercising, remember it is important to talk to your health care provider. If you typically get little or no activity, walking is a great exercise to start with. Walking is usually safe for everyone, it is easy on your body and joints, and it doesn’t require extra equipment. It is also easy to fit into a busy schedule.
    Squatting during labor may help open your pelvic outlet to help your baby descend, so practice squatting during pregnancy. To do a squat, stand with feet shoulder width apart and slowly lower into a squat position. You should keep your back straight, heels on the floor and your knees shouldn’t protrude in front of your feet. Hold the squat for 10 to 30 seconds; you can rest your hands on your knees.
    Then slowly stand back up, pushing up from your knees with your arms, if you need to. Repeat this 5 times working up to more.
    Pelvic tilts strengthen the muscles in your abdomen and help alleviate back pain during pregnancy and labor. To do pelvic tilts get on your hands and knees. Tilt your hips forward and pull your abdomen in. Your back should slightly round. Stay in this position for a few seconds then relax without letting your back sag. Repeat a couple of times, working up to 10.
  9. What are the Body changes that affect exercise during pregnancy?
    There are many changes happening in your body during pregnancy.  First, joints are more flexible from the hormones which cause certain muscles to relax during pregnancy.  Your center of gravity or equilibrium is shifted from the extra weight in the front, as well as, your shifting hips.
    This can affect your balance as you near your due date. The extra weight will also cause your body to work harder than before you were pregnant.
    All of these factors may affect how you exercise and what exercises you choose to do. Remember, it is always recommended you consult your healthcare provider about exercises for your specific situation.
  10. How Can I Get Started?
    Always talk to your doctor before beginning any exercise program. Once you’re ready to get going:
    • Start gradually. Even 5 minutes a day is a good start if you’ve been inactive. Add 5 minutes each week until you reach 30 minutes.
    • Dress comfortably in loose-fitting clothes and wear a supportive bra to protect your breasts.
    • Drink plenty of water to avoid overheating and dehydration.
    • Skip your exercises if you’re sick.
    • Opt for a walk in an air-conditioned mall on hot, humid days.
    • Above all, listen to your body.
  11. Who Should Not Exercise?
    If you have a medical problem, such as asthma, heart disease or uncontrolled Type 1 diabetes, exercise may not be advisable. Exercise may also be harmful if you have an obstetric condition such as bleeding or spotting and weak cervix.
    Avoid aerobic exercise during pregnancy if you have:
    • Hemodynamically significant heart disease
    • Restrictive lung disease
    • Incompetent cervix/cerclage
    • Multiple gestation at risk for premature labor
    • Persistent second- or third-trimester bleeding
    • Placenta previa after 26 weeks of gestation
    • Premature labor during the current pregnancy
    • Ruptured membranes
    • Preeclampsia/pregnancy-induced hypertension
  12.      Take precautions with aerobic exercise during 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
  13. Consult your health care provider before beginning an exercise program. Your health care provider can offer personalized exercise guidelines, based on your medical history.
  14. How Soon Can I Exercise After Delivery?
    It is best to ask your health care provider how soon you can begin your exercise routine after delivering your baby. Although you may be eager to get in shape quickly, return to your pre-pregnancy fitness routines gradually. Follow your health care provider’s exercise recommendations.
    Most women can safely perform a low-impact activity one to two weeks after a vaginal birth (typically three to four weeks after a cesarean birth). Do about half of your normal floor exercises and don’t overdo them. Wait until about six weeks after birth before running or participating in other high impact activities.
  15. When to stop exercising immediately?
    Stop exercising and consult a health care provider if you:
    • experience pain, including abdominal, chest, or pelvic pain
    • have muscle cramps
    • feel faint, dizzy, or nauseous
    • feel cold or clammy
    • notice vaginal bleeding
    • have a sudden gush of fluid from the vagina or a trickle of fluid that leaks steadily, possibly indicating a rupture of the amniotic membrane
    • have an irregular or rapid heartbeat
    • notice sudden swelling in the ankles, hands, face, or all of them
    • experience increased shortness of breath
    • have persistent contractions that continue after rest
    • have difficulty walking

Regular physical activity can boost maternal and fetal health, and it can make pregnancy, labor, and post-delivery recovery easier. However, it is important to stay safe during exercise.
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