We explain exactly how you can make exercise during pregnancy safe for you and your baby.
Is it safe to exercise during pregnancy? -
Providing you are in good health and don't overdo it, exercise in pregnancy can be really beneficial for both you and your baby.
Irrespective of whether you were an active person before you fell pregnant, incorporating some gentle exercise into your routine can do wonders for both your general health and sense of well being. Some of the benefits include:
Who shouldn't exercise during pregnancy? -
- An easier pregnancy and labour
- Better muscle tone
- Better control over pregnancy weight gain
- Fewer pregnancy related problems such as constipation, back ache and water retention
- More restful sleep
- Enhanced mood
- Higher energy levels
- Easier to get back into shape after the birth
- Long term health benefits for baby
While exercise is perfectly safe for most women during pregnancy there are exceptions. For this reason it's really important to check with your midwife or doctor before you embark on any exercise routine. You should also check back with them each time you have an appointment to ensure that your preferred activity continues to be suitable and safe for you and baby.
Women who have experienced any of the following pregnancy-related issues will need to take special care when exercising:
Which forms of exercise are best for pregnancy? -
- A pre-existing medical condition
- A risk, or history, of preterm labour
- Low lying placenta
- High blood pressure
- A multiple pregnancy
- Back or hip problems
- Heavy bleeding
- A threatened miscarriage
Generally, low impact activities are most suitable for pregnancy as they help to build your fitness and strength with minimal risk to you or baby - walking, yoga, gentle jogging, pilates and stationary cycling are all ideal. Swimming and aqua-aerobics are also fantastic forms of exercise, particularly in the final trimester, as they place little strain on your joints and support your bump, minimising risk of injury.
Which forms of exercise should I avoid? -
Contact sports are usually best avoided during pregnancy as are those which involve a high degree of balance - and therefore a risk of falling - such as gymnastics, horse riding and cycling (this is usually best avoided from the second trimester onwards). You should also avoid exercising in extreme heat, high altitude, deep water (as is necessary with activities such as SCUBA diving) and heavy pollution.
How to make exercise safe for pregnancy -
Warning signs to stop exercising -
- Check with your doctor -
You should always check with your doctor before you start any new exercise routine during pregnancy. If you exercised before pregnancy you should check that your previous activities and levels of training are still suitable.
- Listen to your body -
This is so important when you're exercising as you know your body best and can tell when something isn't right. During pregnancy you should never exercise to the point of exhaustion and ideally never be too out of breath to hold a conversation while you're working out. It's also recommended that you should aim to keep your heart rate under 140 beats per minute - you can work this out either by counting or using a heart rate monitor.
- Stretch -
You should always begin your 'workout' with a proper warm up and finish with a cool down as this will go a long way to preventing injury and getting your body prepared. Stretching is a really important part of this.
- Stay hydrated -
It's vital that you stay properly hydrated when you exercise so make sure you drink plenty of water before, during and after your workout even if you don't feel particularly thirsty.
- Dress the part -
Overheating can be a risk when you exercise during pregnancy so it's important to dress in loose, breathable layers that you can take off as you warm up. You should also make sure that you wear properly fitted, supportive shoes and a good maternity bra.
- Learn your limits -
If you're new to exercise you need to start gently and build up the length and intensity of your workout as your fitness levels progress. Conversely, if you exercised heavily before you fell pregnant it's likely that you'll need to taper your routine down as your baby grows. You should always tell any exercise coach or fitness instructor that you're pregnant so that they can tailor your workout appropriately.
- Keep moving-
You should avoid lying on your back for long periods from the second trimester onwards as the weight of your baby will put pressure on the vena cava, a vein that carries blood from your lower half of your body to your heart. Standing still for long periods should also be avoided wherever possible as blood can pool in your legs and make you dizzy.
- Keep it regular-
If you exercise sporadically you're more likely to do more damage than good. For maximum benefit you should aim to take some light exercise 3 to 4 times a week throughout your pregnancy and beyond.
It's always better to err on the side of caution during pregnancy so if you ever experience any of the following symptoms while exercising it's important to stop what you're doing and contact your doctor for advice.
Have you embarked on an exercise regime since you found out you were pregnant or are you still lacking the motivation? Why not visit the AskBaby forums and share stories and support with other members.
- Uterine contractions
- Vaginal bleeding or heavy discharge
- Faintness or dizziness
- Severe headaches or blurred vision
- Pain anywhere in your body
- Severe shortness of breath
- Very rapid heart beat