Exercise During Pregnancy

Physical activity, at a moderate level, is not usually harmful to mother or fetus. It has the following potential benefits during pregnancy:

  1. Better circulation, less swelling
  2. Better digestion (including less constipation)
  3. Reduced leg cramps and varicose veins
  4. Reduced backaches, muscle and joint soreness
  5. Increased stamina and easier recovery after giving birth

Why Exercise is Important During Pregnancy

General Exercise Guidelines

  • The U. S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that most pregnant women who are not already doing vigorous-intensity exercise should get at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week.
  • It is best to spread this out over several days each week.
  • Women who are already physically active can continue their routine provided that their condition remains unchanged and that they discuss their activity with their health care provider throughout their pregnancy.
  • Find an exercise you enjoy doing.
  • Consider brisk walking: it is low impact, it can be continued after the baby is born, it can be done at a convenient time and you can do it with your spouse or with a friend.
  • Swimming is a great pregnancy exercise as the water supports the weight and balance problems are greatly reduced. Water aerobics are also good.
  • Consider using a stationary bicycle. The changes in balance may cause falls when bicycling outdoors.
  • Low-impact and step aerobics can be continued but certain movements should be avoided (high knees, exaggerated movements, high kicks, jumping movements). Some fitness instructors have received special training to help them adapt their classes to suit pregnant women.
  • If it hurts, don’t do it! Also stop if you are feeling tired.
  • Exercise at a comfortable pace. You should be able to carry on a conversation during exercise.
  • Avoid hot, humid weather and getting overheated. Drink plenty of fluids before, during and after exercise.
  • Spend time to warm up and cool down properly.
  • Avoid jerking, jumping, jarring, bouncing movements and any activity with sudden stops and starts. Your joints are less stable and it is easier to sprain or strain your muscles.
  • Avoid exercises where falls are possible: ice skating, in-line skating, downhill and cross-country skiing. If you have a high level of expertise in these sports, you may do them with caution, realizing a risk is involved.
  • Avoid water-skiing, parachuting and scuba-diving.
  • Ater the fourth month, do not exercise while lying on your back as the blood supply to the uterus can be cut off.
  • Watch for separation of the main abdominal muscle. Abdominal strengthening exercises may have to be changed or stopped if this happens.

Additional Resources