Exercise in Pregnancy: Move, Baby!

Many pregnant women may have heard that they should avoid physical activity in pregnancy. Did you know that this is a pregnancy myth?

Exercise in Pregnancy: Move, Baby!

By Sarah Kent, CNM

Many pregnant women may have heard that they should avoid physical activity in pregnancy. Did you know that this is a pregnancy myth? Not only is exercise safe in pregnancy, but it actually can improve your health, your birth outcomes, and your child’s long-term health!

Exercise in pregnancy increases maternal cardiovascular and muscle strength. It helps to keep women strong for their birth and promotes healing and recovery afterwards. In pregnancy, exercise can improve common ailments, such as fatigue, back pain, insomnia, and constipation.

Pregnant women that exercise most days of the week have been shown to have decreased rates of gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, and excessive weight gain. Women who exercise in pregnancy also have decreased rates of c-section delivery and postpartum depression. Babies born to mothers that exercised in pregnancy have decreased rates of childhood obesity.

We know exercise if good for you, but where to go from here?

In general, if you were following an exercise program prior to pregnancy, it is reasonable to continue that program if you are physically fit. For example, if you were sedentary prior to pregnancy, now is not the time to start training for a triathlon! However, women who are running or weight lifting prior to pregnancy can usually continue those regimens while pregnant, with modifications if needed.

Pregnant women should aim to get approximately 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each week, or roughly 30 minutes each day. Pick an exercise that you enjoy and stick with it! Common pregnancy exercises include walking, swimming, yoga, and dancing. Do not do any sort of exercise that could cause trauma to your abdomen or risk you falling (boxing, horseback riding, etc.). If you have any vaginal bleeding or pain, stop the exercise and talk to your provider.

Pregnant women have increased hydration needs compared to non-pregnant women, so should be mindful in increasing water intake while exercising. Aim to drink at least one 20-ounce water bottle for every hour of exercise. Women should also have supportive gear, i.e. supportive sneakers and sports bra to stay comfortable and promote balance while exercising. Pregnant women are also more prone to sun burns, so make sure you put on sunscreen before exercising outdoors!

Though exercise in pregnancy is safe for most women, there are certain conditions of pregnancy in which exercise is not recommended, such as women with preterm labor, high blood pressure, or twins/triplets. Talk to your doctor or midwife before starting a new exercise program.

Exercise is a great habit to start in pregnancy and continue with the whole family after the pregnancy and beyond. Get moving!