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7 Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy
For people of all ages, exercise is an important part of being healthy. Exercise improves heart and lung function and helps to maintain strength, flexibility, and a healthy body weight. Exercise also boosts energy levels and elevates mood.
For most women, maintaining an exercise routine throughout pregnancy is recommended. It is only on rare occasions and with certain medical conditions or pregnancy complications that women may be asked to limit or avoid exercise during pregnancy.
What are some other benefits to exercising during pregnancy?
Along with maintaining strength and flexibility, exercising throughout pregnancy can help to:
- Keep strength in muscles that are very important during labor and childbirth.
- Decrease low back pain during pregnancy.
- Decrease the risk of developing gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM).
- Improve blood sugar (glucose) control for women who have GDM.
- Decrease the risk of developing preeclampsia. This is a serious condition that causes high blood pressure along with other symptoms, such as swelling and headaches.
- Decrease the risk of cesarean delivery.
- Speed up the recovery after giving birth.
How often should I exercise?
Unless your health care provider gives you different instructions, you should try to exercise on most days or all days of the week. In general, try to exercise with moderate intensity for about 150 minutes per week. This can be spread out across several days, such as exercising for 30 minutes per day on 5 days of each week. You can tell that you are exercising at a moderate intensity if you have a higher heart rate and faster breathing, but you are still able to hold a conversation.
What types of moderate-intensity exercise are recommended during pregnancy?
There are many types of exercise that are safe for you to do during pregnancy. Unless your health care provider gives you different instructions, do a variety of exercises that safely increase your heart and breathing (cardiopulmonary) rates and help you to build and maintain muscle strength (strength training). You should always be able to talk in full sentences while exercising during pregnancy.
Some examples of exercising that is safe to do during pregnancy include:
- Brisk walking or hiking.
- Water aerobics.
- Riding a stationary bike.
- Strength training.
- Modified yoga or Pilates. Tell your instructor that you are pregnant. Avoid overstretching and avoid lying on your back for long periods of time.
- Running or jogging. Only choose this type of exercise if:
- You ran or jogged regularly before your pregnancy.
- You can run or jog and still talk in complete sentences.
What types of exercise should I not do during pregnancy?
Depending on your level of fitness and whether you exercised regularly before your pregnancy, you may be advised to limit vigorous-intensity exercise during your pregnancy. You can tell that you are exercising at a vigorous intensity if you are breathing much harder and faster and cannot hold a conversation while exercising.
Some examples of exercising that you should avoid during pregnancy include:
- Contact sports.
- Activities that place you at risk for falling on or being hit in the belly, such as downhill skiing, water skiing, surfing, rock climbing, cycling, gymnastics, and horseback riding.
- Scuba diving.
- Sky diving.
- Yoga or Pilates in a room that is heated to extreme temperatures (“hot yoga” or “hot Pilates”).
- Jogging or running, unless you ran or jogged regularly before your pregnancy. While jogging or running, you should always be able to talk in full sentences. Do notrun or jog so vigorously that you are unable to have a conversation.
- If you are not used to exercising at elevation (more than 6,000 feet above sea level), do notdo so during your pregnancy.
When should I avoid exercising during pregnancy?
Certain medical conditions can make it unsafe to exercise during pregnancy, or they may increase your risk of miscarriage or early labor and birth. Some of these conditions include:
- Some types of heart disease.
- Some types of lung disease.
- Placenta previa. This is when the placenta partially or completely covers the opening of the uterus (cervix).
- Frequent bleeding from the vagina during your pregnancy.
- Incompetent cervix. This is when your cervix does not remain as tightly closed during pregnancy as it should.
- Premature labor.
- Ruptured membranes. This is when the protective sac (amniotic sac) opens up and amniotic fluid leaks from your vagina.
- Severely low blood count (anemia).
- Preeclampsia or pregnancy-caused high blood pressure.
- Carrying more than one baby (multiple gestation) and having an additional risk of early labor.
- Poorly controlled diabetes.
- Being severely underweight or severely overweight.
- Intrauterine growth restriction. This is when your baby’s growth and development during pregnancy are slower than expected.
- Other medical conditions. Ask your health care provider if any apply to you.
What else should I know about exercising during pregnancy?
You should take these precautions while exercising during pregnancy:
- Wear loose-fitting, breathable clothes.
- Do notexercise in very high temperatures.
- Avoid dehydration. Drink enough water before, during, and after exercise to keep your urine clear or pale yellow.
- Avoid overstretching. Because of hormone changes during pregnancy, it is easy to overstretch muscles, tendons, and ligaments during pregnancy.
- Start slowly and ask your health care provider to recommend types of exercise that are safe for you, if exercising regularly is new for you.
Pregnancy is not a time for exercising to lose weight.
When should I seek medical care?
You should stop exercising and call your health care provider if you have any unusual symptoms, such as:
- Mild uterine contractions or abdominal cramping.
- Dizziness that does not improve with rest.
When should I seek immediate medical care?
You should stop exercising and call your local emergency services (911 in the U.S.) if you have any unusual symptoms, such as:
- Sudden, severe pain in your low back or your belly.
- Uterine contractions or abdominal cramping that do not improve with rest.
- Chest pain.
- Bleeding or fluid leaking from your vagina.
- Shortness of breath.