Is it Safe to Exercise During Pregnancy?

By Dr. Michele Sinopoli
Reliant Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology

There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about exercising during pregnancy. This often causes some women to avoid exercise or drastically reduce their workouts. However, the evidence is clear that exercise during pregnancy has terrific benefits for both mother and baby.

It turns out that getting consistent exercise during your pregnancy can promote good sleep, lower your chance of depression, help you avoid gestational diabetes, and allow your body to get back in shape quicker after delivery. Many researchers also believe that babies in the womb enjoy long-lasting benefits from a mother’s exercise, including lower body fat at birth and a more robust cardiovascular system.

One of the biggest myths about exercising during pregnancy is that it can somehow cause an expectant mother to have a miscarriage. However, doctors believe that there is no real evidence to support this. Even heavy exercise by an expectant mother is not known to cause miscarriages.

It’s important for women to know that their exercise tolerance will be reduced while pregnant because the volume of blood inside a woman actually doubles during pregnancy and the heart has to work harder to move that extra blood around. Pregnant woman usually notice that they are more out of breath while exercising or even doing routine tasks around the home. This happens for many reasons including that an expectant mother has to expel not only the carbon dioxide in her blood, but also the carbon dioxide in her baby’s blood too.

Here are some tips on exercising while pregnant:

  • Yoga is a good way to strengthen your core muscles and improve flexibility. The gentle movements coupled with an emphasis on breathing and meditation help also foster a sense of calm. These techniques are also useful to use while you are in labor. You should avoid exaggerated twists and movements that tug on your belly as well as inversions such as headstands and shoulder stands in the second half of your pregnancy. Moves that require you to lie on your back or belly for long periods should also be avoided at this time.
  • Water aerobics are popular among pregnant women for many reasons. It’s excellent exercise that’s easy on your joints. Plus you won’t get overheated when you are exercising in the pool.
  • Strength training during pregnancy is also a terrific way to get some healthy exercise. Machines, free weights, and exercises such as push-ups or squats are fine (don’t worry, doing squats won’t make you go into labor).
  • Walking is a great way to start an exercise program, especially if you have been inactive before you became pregnant. If you are already an experienced runner, feel free to keep running during pregnancy. At a certain point, your body will let you know when to cease running and switch to walking for exercise.
  • Be aware that you may be more susceptible to falling while pregnant due to the fact that your center of gravity changes during pregnancy – especially in the later stages.
  • If you monitor your heart rate while exercising you should know that your heart rate is an accurate gauge of intensity but will be higher at lower workloads. This is due to increased blood volume during pregnancy.

Be aware that most doctors agree you should avoid a small number of activities while pregnant. These include scuba diving, horseback riding, and any contact sport that might cause blunt-force trauma to your abdomen. You should also be aware of potential warning signs including vaginal bleeding, abdominal cramping, lightheadedness, excessive nausea, and extreme headaches. Exercise can cause extra stress on the body’s systems which in turn can bring pre-existing problems to the forefront. If any of the above symptoms occur, you should stop exercising immediately and talk to your doctor.

In addition, you should avoid getting dehydrated while exercising during pregnancy. Dehydration can cause preterm uterine contractions. So drink plenty of water and adjust your fluid intake for the intensity and duration of your workout.

Don’t let the myths about exercising while pregnant keep you sitting on the sidelines. It’s perfectly fine to hit the gym and be active – both you and your baby will benefit!

Is it Safe to Exercise During Pregnancy?

About Michele Sinopoli, MD

When she first went to college, Dr. Michele Sinopoli studied bio-medical engineering. However, after a while she realized that being in a lab all day wasn’t what really interested her. “I had a summer job as a bio-medical engineer at a local hospital,” she explains. “One day an obstetrician asked me if I wanted to see a delivery. Once I witnessed the miracle of birth and saw the joy the parents experienced, I knew that was the field...

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