Exercise Guidelines During Pregnancy

Exercising during your pregnancy can be healthy and beneficial for both you and your unborn child. Regular exercise during pregnancy can decrease labor length, reduce stress, and increase energy. There are, however, some important facts to keep in mind and some activities to avoid. Here are the dos and don’ts of exercising through your pregnancy



Stay Hydrated: Water is essential, transporting nutrients to body cells and carrying waste products away. “During exercise, much water is lost as sweat, so it’s important to drink at least 8-12 cups of fluids (water, milk, fruit juice, or other non-caffeinated beverages) daily,” says Molly Kimball, a registered dietitian at the Ochsner Clinic Foundation. Drinking plenty of fluids can also help alleviate the constipation that plagues many pregnant women.

Maintain Correct Maternal Core Temperature: Increasing the expectant mother’s core temperature also increases the temperature of the baby. A woman should monitor her temperature during and after exercise to ensure that it does not rise above 102 degrees according to Kimball, who also says that raising the pregnant body temperature too high may increase the risk of central nervous system abnormalities to the fetus, including spina bifida and hydro-encephalopathy.

Take Care in Selecting Exercises: The hormone relaxin makes you especially susceptible to strains and injuries, so take care in choosing your exercises. Kelli Calabrese, fitness expert and lead trainer of online fitness center, recommends activities like walking, jogging, swimming, stationary cycling, stair climbing, elliptical training and rowing. Calabrese also adds that most sports are safe during the first two trimesters as long as there is no risk of impact or trauma.

Monitor your Heart Rate: During pregnancy, your heart rate should not exceed 140 beats per minute or 60 percent of your maximum heart rate. And since your heart beats faster during pregnancy, you won’t have to exercise as vigorously to reach your target heart rate.


Heavy Weight Lifting: It is very important to avoid heavy weights. Dr. Joanne Gorton, a physical therapist, naturopathic doctor, and faculty member of the National College of Naturopathic medicine in Portland, Oregon, suggests that women avoid any type of exercise where they are straining themselves [3]. Do not lift weights or stand motionless for long periods of time because this can decrease blood flow to the uterus. Stay in motion and change positions often.

The Valsalva Maneuver: The valsalva maneuver is breathing against a forced glottis. In other words, air is not being expelled through your mouth or nose. The valsalva maneuver, says Calabrese, may elevate both heart rate and blood pressure, which can be dangerous to the baby. A pregnant woman should not try to force her breathing, but should breathe naturally and never hold her breath.

The Supine Position: Exercise (and just lying) in the supine (back side down) or right side down position should be avoided after the sixteenth week of pregnancy. According to Dr. Michael Hisey, an orthopaedic spine surgeon at the Texas Back Institute, this is because the weight of the pregnant uterus puts additional pressure on the inferior vena cava in these positions and decreases the amount of blood returning to the heart. This also results in decreased blood flow to the uterus as well as to the mother, putting additional stress on both.

Contact sports: Avoiding contact sports, or sports that would throw you off balance or chronic impact activities such as horseback riding. Any exercise such as skiing or contact sports that involve risks of sudden jolting, particularly impacts to the abdomen, should be avoided.

Warning Signs

Stop exercising and call your physician if you experience:

  • Vaginal Bleeding
  • Dyspnea (shortness of breath)
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Chest Pain
  • Muscle Weakness
  • Preterm Labor
  • Decreased fetal movement
  • Amniotic Fluid Leakage

Remember to start slowly, listen to your body, and stretch before and after exercise. In addition it is very important to consult with your doctor before beginning any type of fitness program.

About Claire Morin

Claire is a blogger and editor for Although she received a degree in psychology, Claire decided to become a full time stay at home mom to her son, Ethan.

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