One of the most exciting chapters of your life has begun. You’re pregnant! Life is about to change, and so is your body. Exercise can not only help you stay in shape, but also help prepare you for labor and delivery. Did you know that exercising is safe and healthy for most pregnant women, even if you haven’t exercised in a while? It is important to always speak to your care provider before beginning any new exercise program, especially if you are expecting. There may be reasons your provider believes it may not be optimum for you to exercise during your pregnancy.
You may be wondering what are the benefits of exercising during pregnancy? What movements are safe for me, and which are not? Which medical conditions might prohibit me from exercising? What signs should I look for that may indicate I should stop exercising and call my provider? We address all of these questions and more in this article.
Why exercise during pregnancy?
Exercising during pregnancy can:
- Lessen the effects of backaches, bloating, swelling and constipation
- Prevent excess weight gain
- Help you sleep better and feel more rested
- Boost energy and your mood
- Promote endurance, tone, and strength
- Reduce the risk of C-section
- Shorten labor
- Lower risk of gestational diabetes
What conditions may cause my provider to advise against exercising during my pregnancy?
Your doctor might advise you not to exercise if you have:
- Some form of heart and lung disease
- Preeclampsia or high blood pressure that develops for the first time during pregnancy
- Cervical problems
- Persistent vaginal bleeding during the second or third trimester
- Placenta problems
- Preterm labor during your current pregnancy
- A multiple pregnancy at risk of preterm labor
- Premature rupture of the membranes
- Severe anemia
What exercises are safest during pregnancy?
The most commonly recommended exercises while you are pregnant are:
- Swimming and water aerobics
- Low-impact aerobics
- Indoor cycling on a stationary bike
- Prenatal yoga
- (Strength training is OK, too, as long as you stick to relatively low weights)
If you don’t already exercise regularly, it is best to start with about 10 minutes of daily physical activity. You should increase this time slowly in 5-10 minute increments until you reach 30 minutes daily based on your level of comfort, and as advised by your care provider.
If you already exercised regularly prior to pregnancy, it is likely that you can continue the same level of workout, as long as your care provider gives you the green light, and as long as you remain comfortable during each session.
Which types of exercise should be avoided during pregnancy?
Activities known for high contact, for example:
- Ice hockey
Activities with a high risk factor for falling, for example:
- Downhill Skiing
- In-Line Skating
- Horseback riding
Water activities that may result in an impact with great force, such as:
- Water Skiing
Other activities to avoid include:
- Hot Yoga or Pilates
- Exercise at high altitude
- Scuba Diving
Listen to your body! If an exercise is uncomfortable, or is too difficult, don’t over do it. It is perfectly fine to start small and begin with slow movements. Keeping your body moving is what is important. You are preparing for the grand finale here, and training your body for birth and beyond.
What signs should I look for to stop exercising and call my care provider?
Make sure you stop exercising and call your care provider right away if you experience any of the following:
- Increased shortness of breath before you start exercising
- Muscle weakness affecting balance
- Vaginal bleeding
- Fluid leaking or gushing
- Chest pain
- Painful uterine contractions that continue after rest
- Calf pain or swelling
Now that you know some safe ways to exercise during your pregnancy, and you have gotten the go ahead from your care provider, try to have fun! It is important to remember to warm up, stretch, and cool down for your workouts. It is even more important that you remember to stay hydrated, which is vital for you and your unborn child.
Creating time for self care is incredibly important for us all. IF you find yourself wondering how you might make the time to continue your exercise routine with a newborn, you may consider hiring a postpartum doula to give you that extra support and break in your day. Exercising is a great way to continue to care for yourself before, and even after, the baby arrives.