Exercise during pregnancy can be a great way to stay healthy and get your body ready for labor and birth. It can help boost your energy as your body works harder to carry your growing baby. And it may help reduce your risk of some pregnancy complications and ease common pregnancy discomforts, such as back pain.
At your first prenatal checkup, ask your healthcare provider if exercising during pregnancy is safe for you. If you’re healthy and were active before you got pregnant, it’s probably safe to continue your workouts during pregnancy.
For example, if you’re a runner or a tennis player, it may be ok to keep doing your workouts, even though you may need to ease up a little later in pregnancy. If you’re new to exercise, talk to your provider about safe activities and start slowly. Try to build up your fitness level little by little.
The Many Benefits of Exercise
Regular physical activity can:
• Help you feel good, give you energy and make your heart and lungs strong.
• Help you gain the right amount of weight.
• Ease pregnancy aches and pains, such as back pain and swelling.
• Help you manage stress and sleep better.
• Help reduce your risk of complications, such as gestational diabetes and preeclampsia.
• Help reduce your risk of having a cesarean birth (C-section).
• Prepare your body for labor and birth.
Is Exercise Safe for All Pregnant Women?
No. Talk to your provider to make sure exercise is ok for you. Don’t exercise if you have:
• Preterm labor (labor that starts before 37 weeks of pregnancy) or if you’re pregnant with twins, triplets or more with other risk factors for preterm labor.
• Bleeding from the vagina or if your water breaks.
• Cervical insufficiency or a cerclage. Cervical insufficiency is when your cervix opens too early during pregnancy. A cerclage is a stitch your provider may put in your cervix to help keep it closed.
• Gestational hypertension or preeclampsia. These are types of high blood pressure that some pregnant women have.
• Placenta previa after 26 weeks of pregnancy. This is when the placenta lies low in the uterus and covers the cervix.
• Severe anemia or certain heart and lung diseases. Anemia occurs when you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body.
Get at least 2½ hours of aerobic (also called cardio) activity each week. These activities make you breathe faster and deeply and increase your heart rate. Safe activities during pregnancy include:
• Swimming and water workouts.
• Riding a stationary bike.
• Low-impact aerobics, yoga or Pilates classes. You may need to modify or avoid certain poses, such as lying on your belly or lying flat on your back (after the first trimester). Breathing, meditation and other calming methods from yoga and Pilates classes can help you manage pain during labor and birth.
• Strength training. You can work out with weights, as long as they’re not too heavy.
Activities to Avoid
During pregnancy, don’t do:
• Any activity that has a lot of jerky, bouncing movements or one that may cause you to fall, such as horseback riding, downhill skiing, off-road cycling, gymnastics or skating.
• Any sport in which you can get hit in the belly, such as ice hockey, boxing, soccer or basketball.
• Any exercise that has you lie flat on your back (after the third month of pregnancy), such as sit-ups. Lying flat on your back can limit the flow of blood to your baby.
• Activities that can cause you to hit water with great force, such as waterskiing, surfing or diving.
• Skydiving or scuba diving.
• Exercising at high altitudes (more than 6,000 feet), unless you live at a high altitude. This can lower the amount of oxygen that reaches your baby.
• Activities that may make your body temperature too high, such as hot yoga or exercising outside on hot days.
To learn more, visit: marchofdimes.org/exercise.