Are you afraid to exercise that it might hurt the life inside you? I understand the lack of proper information can make you overwhelmed. Don't worry. In this article, you will find everything about exercise during pregnancy: its benefits, risks, and how much is enough.
First, you must know that exercise for healthy pregnant women is completely safe. And in most cases, it's recommended. The general rule is to keep exercising if you were previously active and add it gradually in case you were inactive. However, working out is contraindicated in some conditions, which I will discuss later in the article.
Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy
Recent scientific evidence strongly encourages women to exercise during pregnancy. It's beneficial for your health and keeps your baby fit, a win-win situation. From easing gestational discomfort to calming down mood swings, exercise can be your best companion on a journey to motherhood. Here are some ways you can benefit from a regular workout during this period.
1. Lowers The Risk of Gestational Diabetes Mellitus
2-10 % of women in the US suffer from gestational diabetes yearly. This condition, in turn, increases the risk of:
- Having a baby that is larger in weight
- Delivery through C-section
- Baby born with breathing problems as a result of early delivery
- Developing preeclampsia
- Hypoglycemia in children
- Developing type 2 diabetes later in life
Managing your blood sugar levels throughout pregnancy is essential to avoid the above scenarios. And that can be done by EXERCISE? Let me tell you how.
Obesity and a sedentary lifestyle are the two major risk factors for developing GM. However, being physically active can reduce the risk of getting this metabolic disorder by 28% to 59%, per an article published in the Journal of perinatal medicine.
2. Prevents Excessive Weight Gain
You will gain weight after conceiving a baby, but it should be within the recommended range. Being underweight or overweight during this period is not suitable for you and your baby. In fact, research tells that unreasonable gestational weight gain is linked with an increased chance of cesarean delivery, preeclampsia, birth canal trauma, and diabetes. Also, you are more likely to retain the pounds gained during pregnancy even after giving birth.
And if you think that EWG affects only a few women, let me tell you, almost 50% of ladies (previously overweight) exceed the suggested limits. ALARMING, right? But you can always watch for excess weight and exercise to burn extra calories.
3. Prevents preeclampsia and premature birth
Preeclampsia is a potentially dangerous condition that can develop during pregnancy. It causes an abnormal rise in blood pressure, the appearance of protein in the urine, and swelling. In addition, this disorder can cause the placenta to receive inadequate blood flow, resulting in the birth of small babies. It is also a number one cause of premature birth.
Prenatal exercise improves blood flow and maintains gestational weight, lowering preeclampsia risk. In addition, Areview article published in 2021 states that working out during pregnancy significantly lowers the chance of developing preeclampsia and gestational hypertension.
4. Prevent Lumbopelvic Pain Lumbopelvic pain
is the most common problem affecting more than 50% of pregnancies.
Research has proven to show that exercise positively impacts pregnancy-related lumbopelvic pain. In addition, routine physical activity can strengthen your back and alleviate all physical pains that come with pregnancy.
5. Helps Urinary Incontinence
Many weird but normal things can come your way during pregnancy. And one of these surprises is urine leakage during sneezing, laughing, or coughing. Statistics show that urinary incontinence affects 75% of women in late pregnancy and almost one 3rd of ladies after delivery. It happens because the fetus grows in the uterus over your bladder, which puts pressure on the bladder as the womb expands.
But the good part is you can save yourself from this awkward situation by just a simple exercise. You can reduce urinary stress incontinence by strengthening your pelvic muscles that help empty your bladder. National Kidney Foundation recommends kegel exercises to treat this condition.
6. Boost Mood
Pregnancies can be very moody; they can make you go from laughing to crying in seconds. Exercise helps improve your mood swings by releasing endorphins and serotonin. These are called happy hormones that make you feel good and boost your concentration. See, you are just an exercise away from getting your mood right!
7. Lowers Anxiety And Depression
Up to 39% of women suffer from anxiety, and 13% go through depression during prenatal and postpartum. Exercise does not only help enhance your mood, but these feel-good hormones also fight against depression and anxiety. Strong evidence suggests the reduction of anxiety and depression in pregnancy and postpartum results from regular physical activity.
8. Lowers The Risk Of Deep Vein Thrombosis
As the name suggests, DVT is a condition in which a blood clot forms in one or more body veins, particularly in the legs. Although it's uncommon in pregnancy, pregnant women are still more likely to develop DVT than those who are not.
The reason is simple; the growing life inside the womb presses the vessels around the pelvic area, resulting in less blood flow. Plus, immobility during postpartum increases the chance of getting blood clots. Exercising calf muscles and stretching your legs in pregnancy improve blood flow and lower the risk of DVT in prenatal and postpartum.
9. May Decrease The Risk of Cesarean Birth
C-sections deliver almost 21% of babies worldwide. But, just like any surgery, it increases the risk of infections, bleeding, and blood clots. Besides, it delays milk production and poses a risk to future pregnancies.
One should always prefer natural vaginal delivery over C-sections as long as no other conditions suggest otherwise. For example, one study shows that exercise can reduce the likelihood of cesarean delivery by 75%.
10. Ease Constipation
It is a prevalent problem that women face during pregnancy. In fact, the statistics show almost 16 to 39% of pregnant ladies suffer from this condition.
Moderate intensity exercise increases bowel movements and gets food to move faster through the digestive tract. In addition, a regular workout and diet containing fibers can save you from constipating.
11. Prepare Your Body For Labor
Once you are in the labor room for delivery, the only thing on your mind would be to get out of that place as quickly as possible. A strong core and pelvic floor can reduce your time in that room.
Exercise help build these muscles. The stronger these muscles are, the sooner you can push the baby out.
12. Boost immunity
A strong immune system helps you fight germs and prevents you from catching colds. It also helps heal postpartum wounds by preventing infection.
One of the best ways to improve your immune system is to stay active. A review published in 2019 found that exercise enhances the circulation of immune cells that help your body identify any infection earlier.
Are There Any Risks Associated with Exercise During Pregnancy?
It's completely normal to get overwhelmed by the influx of information people throw at you during pregnancy. And guess what, most of the time, these things turn out to be myths with no scientific basis.
The same is the case with exercise. Many concerns are raised over the adverse outcomes of exercise on the fetus, such as miscarriage, low birth weight, and premature delivery. However, no strong evidence suggests such outcomes of workouts in pregnancy.
The Centre of disease control and Prevention suggests that moderate intensity exercise such as brisk walking is safe for pregnant women and babies. This is because the risks of babies being born small, premature delivery, and miscarriage are too low. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists also supports the above statement.
Who Shouldn't Exercise During Pregnancy?
Some medical conditions require you to avoid exercise during pregnancy altogether. These include women with:
- Ruptured membrane, commonly described as water breaking
- Preterm labor—Labor before 37 weeks of pregnancy
- Persistent vaginal bleeding
- Placenta praevia (the placenta covers the opening of the uterus) after 28 weeks of pregnancy.
- Multiple pregnancies, e.g., twins or triplets
- Cardiovascular disorders, including hypertension
- Diabetes type 1
- Thyroid problems
- Respiratory diseases
- Incompetent cervix — also called cervix insufficiency, when the cervix dilates too early in pregnancy, leading to immature delivery or miscarriage.
- Intrauterine growth restriction— a condition in which the fetus doesn't grow as it's expected due to a lack of access to nutrients and oxygen supply to the baby
- Eating disorders
- Recurrent pregnancy loss
A thorough clinical examination is necessary to identify if there is any complication that requires contradiction or modification of the exercise routine.
What Exercises are Safe During Pregnancy?
Many exercises are safe in pregnancy, and you only need common sense to get most of them. Here are some of the exercises that specialists agreed are good for pregnant women:
Walking is a simple exercise, to begin with in pregnancy. It improves cardiovascular health and has a negligible impact on the knees and ankle.
As the baby grows and the womb expands, it affects your balance, making you more likely to fall off. In this scenario, stationary bicycling is the safest choice, as it is easy on your joints and pelvis.
It works out almost all body muscles and allows movement without putting pressure on the joints. Aqua aerobic help you prevent muscle strain and injury by supporting your body weight.
Prenatal yoga is specially designed for pregnant women. It help improves flexibility and breathing patterns. However, avoid poses that need you to lie on your back for extended periods.
The squat is highly recommended for pregnant women as it builds pelvic floor muscles. However, it is suggested to use a chair or assistance for additional balance support in the third trimester.
Tips for Exercising in Pregnancy
You need to be a little careful when exercising during pregnancy. Here are some of the tips that can save you from unwanted trouble:
- Always warm up your muscles before doing exercise.
- Keep yourself hydrated.
- Avoid getting overheated and drink plenty of fluids.
- Use contact support when necessary.
- Avoid activities with a high risk of falling.
- If something doesn't feel right, talk to your OB-GYN.
- Use your common sense.
- Don't exhaust yourself and avoid getting energy-deficient.
- Avoid exercises that can cause trauma to your abdomen.
- Wear comfortable shoes.
Exercise Prescription for Healthy Pregnant Ladies
It's not easy to exercise during pregnancy. But knowing the benefits of exercise to you and your baby can keep you moving. And it's not like you have to spend hours and hours in the gym.
According to guidelines, pregnant women should aim for a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise a week. These kinds of activities work out the body's major muscles and raise the heart rate. Examples include brisk walking, gardening, water aerobics, etc.
You can divide these 150 minutes into 30 minutes daily five days a week or work out in short bursts of 10 minutes throughout the day. If you were previously inactive, start gradually. For example, exercise for 5 minutes a day, and then add another 5 minutes every week until you reach 30 minutes a day.
However, if you were already exercising before pregnancy, you can continue your routine after consulting your gynecologist.
1.When should I stop exercising?
Stop exercising immediately and consult your doctor if you notice any warning signs.
- Chest pain
- Calf pain
- Shortness of breath
2. How soon should I start exercising again after giving birth?
Everybody is different. If you had an uncomplicated pregnancy, you could start exercising in a few days when you feel ready. In case of surgery, consult your doctor about when to start.
Exercise during a healthy pregnancy is safe and doesn't increase the risk of miscarriage and premature delivery. In fact, it lowers the risk of many pregnancy-related complications and benefits the baby's health. However, take caution while exercising in pregnancy and always consult your healthcare provider.
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- Exercise During pregnancy. (n.d.). ACOG. Retrieved July 1, 2022,
- Healthy Pregnant and Postpartum Women. (2022, June 3). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Ribeiro, M. M., Andrade, A., & Nunes, I. (2021). Physical exercise in pregnancy: benefits, risks, and prescription. Journal of Perinatal Medicine, 50(1), 4–17.