Often, the women I see in my practice ask whether or not it is safe to exercise during pregnancy. I tell them exercise is great for both mom and baby, and that they’ve taken the right step by asking me first.
It’s important to talk to your doctor about the types and levels of exercise you choose to do during pregnancy. What you can do safely depends on your level of fitness as well as your personal health situation and possible complications. Based on your situation, your doctor may advise limiting or adjusting your exercise routine.
Sleep better, look better
If you’re healthy and pursue a moderate-intensity activity during pregnancy, you can safely assume you are not negatively impacting your baby’s health in any way. Plus, you will benefit because exercise can increase your energy level and help you feel better overall by releasing endorphins (naturally occurring chemicals in your brain). You are also likely to sleep better and look better because exercise increases blood flow to your skin.
Fight body problems
Exercise also counteracts some of the body problems associated with pregnancy. You will gain less fat if you exercise while pregnant. Overall, weight gain can contribute to poorer posture and back and joint achiness. Some pregnant women are also troubled with constipation. Exercise can positively impact all those problems by strengthening muscles, lubricating fluid in your joints and improving regularity. Some studies have shown that exercise may even lower risk of complications, such as preeclampsia and gestational diabetes.
Prepare for birth
Best of all, exercise prepares you for birth. Having stronger muscles and a fit heart can make labor and delivery easier. If your labor is lengthy, prior exercise will have helped you increase your endurance for the task at hand. And continuing to exercise after your baby’s birth will help you regain your pre-pregnancy body and stamina more quickly.
Guidelines for exercise in pregnancy
However, exercising wisely is essential. Choose exercises that improve strength and stamina, but are not jarring to your body or require you to lie flat on your back. Avoid exercising outdoors on hot days between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. It can be unhealthy for your baby, particularly in the first trimester, if you become overheated. If your body is telling you to stop when you are exercising, listen! If you can’t talk during activity, you are going at it too hard.
Guidelines for exercise in pregnancy include:
- Avoid lying flat on your back
- Start slowly and then gradually increase your level of activity
- Drink plenty of water
- Wear a supportive bra
- Avoid activities where you could easily fall or hit your stomach, such as hockey, soccer, basketball, downhill skiing and gymnastics
When to stop exercising
Also, suspend exercising and talk to your doctor before beginning again if you notice any of these symptoms while exercising:
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Racing heartbeat
- Shortness of breath
- Pain in your back or pelvis
- Vaginal bleeding
- Uterine contractions
Your doctor can help you develop an exercise program appropriate for your level of fitness and needs.