Q. Although I know it is good for me, I’ve had many people tell me that I should avoid exercising while I’m pregnant because of the potential risks. Is there any merit to this?
A. Exercising intelligently during your pregnancy is almost always good for you and your baby, and can fortify your body so that the physical stress of being pregnant doesn’t do long-term structural damage. There certainly are situations where some forms of exercise aren’t recommended. The following is a summary of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ revised guidelines for exercising while pregnant (from Obstetrics & Gynecology 2002; 99: 171-173).
- In the absence of physical restrictions (see below), pregnant women are encouraged to engage in 30 minutes or more of moderate exercise a day on most, if not all, days of the week. As always, check with your doctor before beginning an exercise program.
- After the first trimester, pregnant women should avoid supine (on your back) positions during exercise. Motionless standing should be avoided as well.
- Participation in a wide range of recreational activities appears to be safe. However, activities with a high risk for falling or abdominal trauma should be avoided during pregnancy, such as ice hockey, soccer, basketball, gymnastics, horseback riding, downhill skiing and vigorous racquet sports.
- Scuba diving should be avoided throughout pregnancy.
- Exertion at altitudes of up to 6,000 feet appears to be safe; however, engaging in physical activities at higher altitudes carries various risks.
Absolute Restrictions for Excluding Aerobic Exercise During Pregnancy
- Hemodynamically (pertaining to the movements involved in circulation of the blood) significant heart disease
- Restrictive lung disease
- Incompetent cervix/cerclage
- Multiple gestation at risk for premature labor
- Persistent second- or third-trimester bleeding
- Placenta previa after 26 weeks of gestation
- Premature labor during the current pregnancy
- Ruptured membranes
- Preeclampsia/pregnancy-induced hypertension
Warning Signs to Stop Exercising and Call Your Doctor
- Vaginal bleeding
- Dyspnea (difficult or labored breathing) prior to exertion
- Chest pain
- Muscle weakness
- Calf pain or swelling
- Preterm labor
- Decreased fetal movement
- Amniotic fluid leakage
In the absence of any of these issues, a balanced conditioning program offers so many benefits for new moms-to-be, and we would love to help you experience them. For further information or guidance please contact the experts at [email protected]