“You need to be physically active during pregnancy. It has terrific benefits that are associated with a better pregnancy outcome and even shorter labors. It’s a win-win for baby and for mom,” says high-risk pregnancy expert Laura Riley, MD, spokeswoman for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and author of Pregnancy: You and Your Baby.
There are many misconceptions surrounding exercise and pregnancy. It is important to talk to your doctor about your normal routine and your exercise intentions from the very beginning of your pregnancy. The simple guidelines are that if you are on an exercise program before becoming pregnant then it is recommended to stay with this healthy habit. If you have never been on an exercise routine before and want to start then it is important to start out slow and stick with simple exercises.
Why is physical activity during pregnancy good for you?
For healthy pregnant women, exercise can:
- Keep your heart, body and mind healthy
- Help you feel good and find the extra energy you need
- Help you stay fit and gain the right amount of weight during pregnancy
- Ease some of the discomforts you might have during pregnancy, like constipation, backaches, trouble sleeping and varicose veins (swollen veins)
- Prevent health problems like preeclampsia and gestational diabetes
- Help your body get ready to give birth
- Help reduce stress
Can physical activity during pregnancy hurt your baby?
With your health care provider’s OK, exercising during pregnancy is safe for you and your baby. Talk to your health care provider before you start any exercise program. Ask about what kinds of activities are safe for you to do. Physical activity is not safe for all pregnant women including certain conditions and a pregnancy with twins, triplets or more (also called multiples). Being pregnant with multiples increases your chances for having preterm labor.
After the third month of pregnancy, any exercises that make you lie flat on your back, like sit-ups is not recommended. Lying on your back can limit the flow of blood to your baby.
What types of activities are best during pregnancy?
If your provider says it’s OK for you to exercise, pick activities you think you’ll enjoy. Some hospitals and health clubs offer aerobics and prenatal yoga classes for pregnant women. Or try things you can do with your partner or friends, like walking or dancing.
- Swimming is a great activity for pregnant women. The water supports the weight of your growing body, and moving against it keeps your heart rate up.
What kinds of activities aren’t safe during pregnancy?
Be careful and check with your provider when choosing your activities. During pregnancy, don’t do:
- Any activity that may hurt you or cause you to fall, like horseback riding, downhill skiing, gymnastics or bike riding
- Any sport in which you can get hit in the belly, like ice hockey, kickboxing, soccer or basketball
- After the third month of pregnancy, any exercises that make you lie flat on your back, like sit-ups. Lying on your back can limit the flow of blood to your baby.
- Scuba diving. This can lead to dangerous gas bubbles in your baby’s blood vessels.
- Exercising at high altitudes (more than 6,000 feet). This can lower the amount of oxygen that reaches your baby.
- Activities outside on hot, humid days because your body can overheat. Also, stay out of saunas, hot tubs and steam rooms.
When you exercise, drink lots of water. Pay attention to your body and how you feel. Stop your activity and call your provider if you have any unusual symptoms.