Exercising during pregnancy is one of the biggest question marks for expectant mothers. Most expectant mothers ask questions like:
- Can I exercise while I’m pregnant?
- What exercises are safe to do while I’m pregnant?
- What exercises help prepare me for giving birth and postpartum?
- Is there a point during my pregnancy where I shouldn’t be exercising?
If you’re in the same boat asking these or similar questions, we have answers for you! Read on to learn more about exercising during pregnancy.
Is it Safe to Exercise During Pregnancy?
To answer the biggest question of all: Yes, it is safe to exercise during pregnancy. In fact, it’s encouraged!
Ultimately, how much exercise you participate in will depend on your fitness level, which trimester you’re currently in, how you’re feeling, and the advice given to you by your doctor (No matter how you feel, always listen to the medical advice of your doctor first and foremost for your safety and the safety of your baby). Barring any restrictions, it is recommended that you exercise 30 minutes per day, 5 days per week.
Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy
Although it may be more difficult than normal to drag yourself to the gym, the reward is huge. Consistently exercising during pregnancy can help minimize the aches and pains you feel during the process, as well as minimize constipation, encourage better sleep, and lower your risk of depression and gestational diabetes.
Consistent exercise can also help prepare your body for labor, strengthening your body and increasing your stamina, potentially leading to a shorter and easier labor. Exercising regularly and developing good workout habits can also help you bounce back after your delivery as well. It also keeps your endorphins up, which can be incredibly beneficial since we all know that pregnancy can bring some pretty intense mood swings due to an influx of hormones estrogen and progesterone.
Exercise Doesn’t Cause Miscarriage
One great fear that many expectant mothers have is that exercising during pregnancy could cause miscarriage. We can assure you that this is just an age-old myth and that “there is no real evidence that exercise is linked to miscarriage,” according to Bruce K. Young, MD, coauthor of Miscarriage, Medicine & Miracles, and professor of obstetrics and gynecology at New York University School of Medicine.
There is wisdom in exercising with care, however. As your pregnancy progresses, you may need to modify the types of exercises you do to accommodate your growing baby bump. Be aware that your center of gravity changes too, so your balance may be a bit different from one trimester to the next!
It’s Okay if It’s Harder than Usual
It’s important to keep in mind that your blood volume doubles during pregnancy, meaning your heart works harder to circulate blood throughout your body and to the placenta where your baby is. This is why your body will feel more tired while exercising than you did before pregnancy. You’re not out of shape if exercise feels more difficult than it did pre-pregnancy!
Types of Beneficial Prenatal Exercise
If you are able to gain access to prenatal exercise classes, we highly recommend them if your doctor hasn’t said otherwise. These are typically a wonderful option for expectant mothers like yourself because you will get to do modified workouts designed specifically for pregnancy while also having the opportunity to bond with other expectant mothers who are experiencing everything you are.
If you don’t have access to prenatal exercise classes, you’ll want to make sure to pay attention to how your body feels, limit the intensity of your workouts and stay within your normal range of motion. This is definitely not the time to push your limits. If you have any questions about what is safe to do, talk to your doctor!
We recommend doing pilates while you are pregnant, especially if you did it before you got pregnant. Pilates can help you tone your abdominal muscles, which will support your growing belly, stabilize your back muscles (minimizing back pain), and can help give you a boost in strength that you’ll need for pushing during labor. The only special recommendation we have for this is to avoid doing the exercises that are on your back, as these can be problematic. You can still participate in the upper-body exercises, stretches, and side-lying leg work.
Prenatal yoga is great for expectant mothers! It can help strengthen and improve your core, improve your flexibility, and also foster a sense of calm thanks to its gentle movements and emphasis on breathing and meditation. During your second half of pregnancy, in particular, make sure to avoid exaggerate twists and movements that tug on your belly, as well as any moves that have you lie on your back or belly, and inversions such as headstands and shoulder stands. Such moves can potentially harm you and the baby.
This can be a good option for you if you’re starting to really feel the symptoms of your pregnancy. This happens to be a third trimester favorite for expectant mothers! You aren’t at risk of tripping or falling, you won’t overheat, and your joints get a break. You’ll just want to make sure to wear water shoes so you don’t slip.
Strength training should be done with care. However, studies have found that low-to-moderate-intensity strength training is safe for you. Again, if you question whether or not you should do a particular exercise, make sure to talk with your doctor first.
There’s a saying, “If you were active before pregnancy, stay active during pregnancy.” Well, this mainly refers to cardio. Cardio is always a good idea during pregnancy. Scale back on the intensity, but feel free to go on walks and runs on a treadmill (safer because you can control the terrain), use the elliptical (places little stress on your joints), or use a stationary bike.
Fun fact: Your heart rate is not an accurate gauge of intensity during pregnancy since your blood volume is increased. Even your resting heart rate will be higher than normal, so you’ll want to just listen to how your body is feeling.
Exercises to Avoid While Pregnant
A good rule of thumb while pregnant is to avoid any exercises that require you to lay on your back or tummy, and exercises that could result in bumps to your abdomen. This can include scuba diving, any contact sports, horseback riding, crunches, and exercises in pilates or yoga that would require you to be on your back.
If you have questions about what exercise you should or shouldn’t be doing during your pregnancy, schedule an appointment with us! We’d be happy to keep you informed on what’s right for your unique pregnancy journey.