Should You Exercise While Pregnant? - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on September 17, 2014

Should You Exercise While Pregnant?

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Mary Wascavage
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Should You Exercise While Pregnant?

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Pregnancy may seem like the most opportune time to relax from an exercise routine, especially since women tend to feel more tired than usual, their backs might ache and their ankles may be swollen. Some women also fear that exercise may not be safe while pregnant.

However, exercising while pregnant is not only safe for both mom and baby, but it can also help women stay healthy and feel their best throughout a pregnancy. In fact, regular exercise during your pregnancy can improve your posture and decrease some common discomforts such as backaches and fatigue.

“Exercise in pregnancy has many of the same health benefits as it does prior to pregnancy and moderate intensity physical activity is encouraged,” said Hayley Solomon Quant, M.D., a maternal fetal medicine specialist at Crozer-Keystone Health System. “Exercise may contribute to both the prevention and management of gestational diabetes.”

If you were exercising regularly prior to becoming pregnant, you can continue your routine safely for as long as you feel comfortable.

If you did not exercise regularly prior to your pregnancy, it can still be safe and healthy for you to start a routine now as long as you don’t have coexisting medical conditions.

“I don’t advocate starting an intense exercise program during pregnancy if she was not already doing so prior. Light to moderate activity should be safe if she is healthy,” Dr. Quant said.

There are some cases in which pregnant women should refrain from exercise until they consult with their doctors.

“For women with underlying medical conditions, in particular cardiac or respiratory diseases, they should consult with their obstetricians before embarking on an exercise program. Women with certain pregnancy complications should discuss exercise with their physicians as it may not be advisable,” she explained. Some of those pregnancy complications include bleeding or spotting; low-lying placenta; previous premature births or a history of early labor; a weak cervix; gestational hypertension or preeclampsia.

For women that can participate in exercise during pregnancy, some of the safest and most productive activities include swimming, brisk walking, indoor stationary cycling; step or elliptical machines; and low-impact aerobics classes taught by a certified instructor.

“In general, exercise in pregnancy is safe and I tell pregnant women to listen to their bodies. If it feels like too much, slow down or back off a bit,” Dr. Quant said.

Just because you’re nearing your due date doesn’t mean you have to stop exercising either.

“If it feels good and your doctor says it’s okay, then there is no reason to stop until you are in labor,” she said.

There are some forms of exercises pregnant women should avoid. Those include types that have a high risk of trauma or falls, such as skiing, gymnastics or hockey and other contact sports. Pregnant women should also avoid scuba diving because of the risk of decompression sickness, as well as exercise at extremely high altitudes, Dr. Quant said.

“After 20-24 weeks, exercise that requires laying flat on one’s back is likely to be uncomfortable, potentially dangerous and should be avoided,” she said. That’s because as the uterus enlarges, it put pressure on the veins that return blood to the mother’s heart and laying flat on your back can lead to dizziness, low blood pressure and passing out.

The important takeaway for expecting moms is that regularly exercising during your pregnancy can help you cope with the changes your body is going through, prevent excess weight gain and build your stamina for the challenges that lie ahead.

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