Exercise and Pregnancy

Pregnant woman exercising

Before you begin exercising, remember that it is important to talk to your health care provider. If you are already exercising, you will probably be able to continue with your routine and adapt it as your pregnancy progresses. Exercise and pregnancy usually work well together.

Recommended Exercises During Pregnancy

Kegel Exercises

Pregnant women who perform Kegel exercises often find they have an easier birth. Strengthening these muscles during pregnancy can help you develop the ability to control your muscles during labor and delivery. Toning all of these muscles will also minimize two common problems during pregnancy: bladder leaks and hemorrhoids.

Kegel exercises are also recommended after pregnancy to promote perineal healing, regain bladder control, and strengthen pelvic floor muscles.  Kegel exercises can be done anywhere, and no one knows you’re doing them.

Pregnant woman swimming

Swimming

Many health care providers and fitness professionals say swimming is the safest exercise for pregnant women. Swimming keeps your body toned without adding weight and stress to your joints. Swimming raises your heart rate and allows you to enjoy a safe cardiovascular exercise that is not likely to cause overheating.

Another benefit of swimming during pregnancy comes from the safety of not falling. During pregnancy, your balance will be off making you more susceptible to tripping or falling. Swimming cancels that risk (at least while you are in the pool). Although swimming is a water sport, not all water sports are safe during pregnancy.

You should avoid other water activities such as scuba diving or water skiing.

Walking

Walking is very beneficial because it is safe for your body. It is easier on your knees than running and can be easily worked into your schedule. Start slowly and be sure you stretch well before you begin. Set realistic goals and wear good shoes to decrease the risk of falling or pressure on your feet.

Pregnant woman running

Running & Jogging

Usually if you are in a habit of running, you can continue running.  However, if you did not run before pregnancy, you may want to speak to your health care provider before you begin a running program. If you run, make sure you’re well hydrated, you avoid over-heating , and you wear good shoes.

Pregnant woman bicycling

Bicycling

The best thing about biking is that the bike supports your weight, so there is less stress on your body. A stationary bike is great exercise because there is a low risk of falling. As you grow, your center of gravity is shifting so you are at an increased risk of falling.  As your abdomen grows, it can put a lot of stress on your back. Start slowly and do not over-exert yourself.

Stair Climbing Machines

These machines pose a small risk of falling. The side rails provide balance support. Stair climbing is an excellent way to raise your heart rate.

Pregnant woman practicing yoga

Yoga

Yoga has a long standing reputation for relieving stress and pressure on your body. Most forms of yoga will be safe for you and your baby, as long as they are not excessively rigorous. Some yoga instructors offer special classes for pregnant women. Avoid lying flat on your back for extended periods of time and try not to overstretch.

There are a number of DVDs available that educate and equip you for doing yoga from the comfort of your own home. Here is a great prenatal yoga dvd to get you started.

Aerobics

If you already participate in aerobics, you will most likely be able to continue; however, you should speak with your health care provider before beginning a new program. Keeping your balance can sometimes be difficult, so you’ll want to be careful as you get further along in your pregnancy. Taking a class specifically designed for pregnant women is a good idea. Most health clubs offer them. Do not exercise lying flat on your back for extended periods of time.

Dance

Dancing can be done in your home or at a gym that offers special classes for pregnant women. Avoid a lot of spinning, leaping, and jumping.

Exercises to Avoid During Pregnancy

Skiing

Although cross-country skiing is a fairly safe sport for pregnant women, there is a risk of falling. Downhill skiing has a greater risk of falling and is not recommended while pregnant.

Water Skiing

Water skiing could result in abdominal trauma, especially in the second and third trimesters.

Horseback Riding

Riding a horse can involve a lot of jolts and quick movements, which can hurt you and your baby. There is also a risk of falling.

Tips to Use When Exercising

Don’t wear tight clothes, but do wear a sports bra that will give you good support. Wear shoes that have good support and are not slippery so you won’t fall. Also make sure to breathe deeply, and drink plenty of water. Avoid jerking motions and lying on your back for extended periods of time.

Stop exercising if you have any vaginal bleeding, dizziness, chest pain, faintness, shortness of breath, contractions, nauseous feelings, leaking fluid from your vagina, or decreased fetal movement.

Recommended Reading

You may find the following books helpful.

Your purchase supports the American Pregnancy Association.


Compiled using information from the following sources:

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2012, May 16). Postpartum care: What to expect after a vaginal delivery. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/labor-and-delivery/in-depth/postpartum-care/art-20047233 Simkin, P., Whalley, J., & Keppler, A. (1991). Pregnancy, childbirth, and the newborn: The complete guide. Deephaven, MN: Meadowbrook Press. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). (2011). Exercise during pregnancy. Retrieved from http://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq119.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20120219T2315308141