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Exercise in Pregnancy

Frequently Asked Exercise Questions

Why is my doctor concerned about the kind of exercise I do during my pregnancy?

Exercise makes you feel and look good. Your doctor wants to be sure you set up a safe exercise program. It is important that you know of any risks that could affect both you and your growing baby. If you provide your doctor with accurate information about the kind of exercise, frequency, and intensity you are used to or would like, a satisfactory exercise program can be set up to carry you through your pregnancy.

Does pregnancy change the way exercise affects me and my baby?
Yes. Your ligaments become easier to stretch. That is why you may feel a little wobbly when walking. Because of this it is easier to sprain something (an ankle), or pull a muscle. As your baby grows, your weight distribution is different; your center of gravity changes, which may make it easier for you to lose your balance. Your ability to catch your breath (get enough oxygen) is decreased during exercise. Because of these changes in your breathing and circulation systems, you may occasionally experience dizziness or weakness. Now when you exercise, you will notice you don’t have the aerobic capacity (the same energy) you did before. With some adjustments you can continue to enjoy exercising and return slowly to your desired program after your baby is born and your body is ready.
Are there times when I should not exercise at all?

Yes! Your doctor may tell you to avoid exercise if:

  • You have problems with early labor or your cervix is opening too early.
  • You are excessively overweight or underweight. However, you may be encouraged to do light exercise, such as regular walking.
  • You have blood pressure, heart, lung, or thyroid problems.
  • You have experienced vaginal bleeding during the pregnancy.
  • Your placenta is covering the bottom part of your womb (placenta previa).
  • There is a problem with your baby’s growth.
  • If the baby is in a position different than head downward during the last few months of your pregnancy. An example of this is breech.
  • You are severely anemic.
  • You are leaking from your bag of water.
Can you give me some guidelines for safe exercising that I can use during my pregnancy?
  • Drink enough fluids before exercising, even in the winter. Also, drink fluids while exercising.
  • Warm up slowly, at least 5 minutes before starting.
  • Stretch, but not to your limit so as not to injure your ligaments. Remember, they are looser
  • Avoid exercises with jerky or bouncing motions.
  • Use a stable floor. Avoid loose rugs that may slide.
  • Exercise regularly, not just once in a while (for example, at least 30 minutes every day, if
  • Avoid competitive exercises.
  • Do not exercise during hot, humid weather or if you have a fever.
  • Your body temperature should not go above 38°C (101°F). Avoid the use of hot tubs and saunas.
  • After the 4th month, do not exercise lying down on your back.
  • Avoid strenuous weightlifting or anything where you hold your breath and strain. Avoid doing
    sit-ups or abdominal crunches since these can cause some weakening of the area between the abdominal (stomach) muscles.
  • During pregnancy, caloric intake is to be over and above your usual need. Adjust it to your level of activity. Avoid strenuous exercise at high altitudes unless you are very used to this. Discuss this with your doctor.
Are there hints that other pregnant women have found helpful?

Choose exercise shoes that feel secure and help your balance. Support hose can help your legs feel better during and after exercise. Watch how you put your feet down, especially if you are planning to walk and there is ice outside. If you need to increase your bra size, you might go right into a nursing bra if you plan to nurse, or you may need an athletic bra for more support during your workouts. Put your feet up with pride as this allows any swelling of your ankles to go down. Your body is working hard helping your baby grow, 24 hours a day!

I've always wanted to take up a new sport, like tennis. I don't even look pregnant yet. Is this a good idea?

It is NOT a good idea to take up a new sport while pregnant. But you can begin something that is on the “good for pregnancy” list; that will give you a head start in beginning tennis after your baby is born. Some good sports are: Yoga (without breath holding), swimming, pregnancy classes, stationary bicycling (gently), easy stretching (but not to your limit), and don’t forget about daily walking in fresh air!

Truthfully, I am worried about gaining weight during the pregnancy. I like to exercise. Can overdoing it cause problems?

There are several things to remember. Being pregnant is not being fat. Exercise does release a chemical into the body called “endorphins” which gives you that feeling of well being. Even with adjustments, your body will have that feeling of “well being.” Lastly, gaining weight in the mid 20 to mid 30 pound range is healthy. This may vary depending on your weight before getting pregnant. Your doctor will give you more information on this. Your baby’s size and health depends on this increased nutrition (not candy, cola, and chips). You must normally INCREASE calories during exercise for your pregnancy and INCREASE calories and fluid over and above that for exercise. If you do not have enough calories, your body can go into a chemical state called ketosis, which can cause developmental problems for your baby. If you don’t get enough calories regularly during pregnancy, your baby may not grow as well.

If I stopped exercising regularly a few months ago and want to start back up, what should I do?

Begin very slowly with low intensity. Remember, even if you are in great shape, you will not be able to do what you did before you became pregnant. Pregnancy is a special time and requires not lower goals, but special ones to help you and your growing child feel happy and stay well.

What are the rewards of a sensible program?

Your baby will be growing safely. You will feel and look good. It will make it easier to return to the exercise program of your choice after the birth of the baby.

When should I stop exercising immediately and call my doctor?

If any of the following happen to you, stop what you are doing and call your doctor immediately:

  • Regular contractions
  • Vaginal bleeding or leaking of fluid
  • Blacking out or fainting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain
  • Unusually fast heart beating that doesn’t seem to pass
  • Anything else that concerns you

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