Is It Safe to Exercise While Pregnant?

Pregnancy is one of the most significant physical changes a person will experience in their life. Understanding your body’s changes during this time is crucial to ensure a safe and healthy pregnancy. With so much change, it can be difficult to discern what you need to do differently and what aspects of your physical health can remain unchanged. Many new mothers feel apprehensive about engaging in physical activity during pregnancy, fearing increased risk to their and their child’s health. So, what is considered safe when it comes to exercising while pregnant?

Can I Exercise While Pregnant?

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, pregnant moms who are healthy and have a normal pregnancy are safe to continue or start regular physical activity. Exercise alone will not impact your risk for miscarriage, low birth weight, or early delivery. Most gynecologists encourage moms to engage in some form of healthy physical activity.

“Exercising is fun and beneficial. It can help reduce stress and make you feel better through the release of endorphins,” says Stefanie Schwarz, a TPMG Obstetrics & Gynecology nurse midwife and lactation counselor in Newport News, VA.

Which Exercises Should I Avoid When Pregnant?

While exercise can be very beneficial for pregnant women, it is important to be cautious when starting a new or intensive exercise routine. Individuals who are already engaged in intensive activities like long-distance running, CrossFit, or hiking do not need to abandon their hobbies. If your body is already accustomed to that type of regimen, it’s often okay to continue. However, if your body is not used to intensive activity, it’s not the time to pick up a new sport.

Additionally, it’s advisable to monitor how you are feeling as your pregnancy progresses. If you start to feel tired, it may be best to scale back and slow things down. Your body will usually let you know when you’re overexerting yourself. That being said, every pregnancy is different. Pregnancy is a personal journey and unique to every mother. It is recommended to follow the guidance of your healthcare provider to determine whatever works best for your body.

Some forms of physical activity should be avoided during pregnancy regardless of your athletic history. All forms of contact sports where the belly would be in danger, should be avoided, including football, soccer, basketball, ice hockey, and more. You should also be cautious about any activity that could lead to falls, including horseback riding, surfing, skydiving, water skiing, skiing or snowboarding. It’s also not recommended to dive while pregnant or get in a hot tub. If you have questions about whether a form of physical activity may be too dangerous, consult a trusted healthcare provider.

What Should I Look Out for When Exercising While Pregnant?

Whether you’re walking or engaging in intensive athletics, it’s important to be aware of warning signs. If you experience any of the following symptoms while engaging in exercise, stop exercising and call your OB/GYN:

  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Dizziness
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Muscle weakness
  • Regular, painful contractions
  • Fluid gushing or leaking from the vagina

What If I Still Have Concerns About Exercising While Pregnant?

In some cases, exercise might not always be recommended. Exercise could pose a risk to those with certain pregnancy complications. Pregnancies with placenta previa (when the placenta partially or completely covers the opening of the uterus), those at risk of preterm labor, pre-eclampsia (a pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure), and certain heart and lung conditions should be extra cautious.

We encourage anyone with questions regarding exercise during pregnancy to speak to a trusted provider to learn more about what exercise plan may work best for them. Our midwives with TPMG Obstetrics & Gynecology are available to answer any questions you may have regarding your pregnancy.

Stephanie Schwarz

About Stefanie Schwarz, DNP, CNM, RNC-MNN, CLC, C-EFM

Stefanie Schwarz, DNP, CNM, RNC-MNN, CLC, C-EFM is a certified nurse midwife and lactation counselor with TPMG Obstetrics & Gynecology in Newport News. Stefanie sees patients from adolescence to child-bearing age, offering care during their pregnancy, labor, and postpartum. As a lactation counselor, she takes a particular medical interest in helping women succeed in breastfeeding.

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