Exercising during your pregnancy may be important to you.
There are many questions that can run through your head during this new chapter in your life. And your main priority is to keep yourself and the baby or babies, healthy!
Physical Therapist and Women’s Health Specialist, Linea, provides common questions and answers that many women have during their pregnancy.
Q: Should I exercise during my pregnancy? Is it safe?
A: Yes! Whether you are pregnant or not, it is always a good idea to check with your doctor before beginning an exercise program, but most people are able to safely exercise during their pregnancy. Some examples of contraindications to exercise during pregnancy include severe anemia, preeclampsia, incomplete cervix, and persistent bleeding in the second or third trimester.
Q: Why should I exercise during my pregnancy?
A: There are many reasons why exercising during pregnancy can be beneficial. Exercise can help to prevent gestational diabetes, decrease the risk of preeclampsia, and decrease incidence of low back pain. Regular exercise can also help to prevent or improve depressive symptoms, so exercise is not only good for your body, but it also helps to improve your mental health!
Q: What kind of exercise should I do?
A: The current recommendation is to include variety in your exercise program. You should aim to perform aerobic exercise 3-5 days per week at moderate intensity for approximately 30 minutes, resistance training 2-3 non-consecutive days per week, and flexibility training 2-3 days per week.
Q: What if I haven’t exercised regularly prior to my pregnancy? Is it ok to exercise?
A: In most cases, yes. However, there are some considerations for people who have been inactive prior to becoming pregnant. Starting with aerobic exercise at lower intensity and for shorter duration is a good way to start. It may be helpful to use a Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) to monitor your exercise intensity, as heart rate during pregnancy can be variable.
Q: Are there any reasons I should stop exercising?
A: You want to be aware of certain warning signs and if you notice any of these, you should stop exercise and contact your doctor. These warning signs include vaginal bleeding or amniotic fluid leakage, shortness of breath prior to exertion, dizziness, chest pain, muscle weakness, calf pain or swelling, decreased movement of the fetus, or preterm labor.
Exercise in supine (laying on your back) should be avoided or modified after 16 weeks gestation in order to avoid pressure on the inferior vena cava, which may reduce venous return. Exercise in a hot, humid environment should also be avoided. Care should be taken to maintain adequate hydration and nutrition. Contact sports should be avoided as well. Don’t forget to breathe while exercising!
Q: What should I do if I have pain?
A: Come to physical therapy or ask your doctor for a referral! Pregnancy causes many changes in the body. In physical therapy, we utilize techniques to help decrease muscle tension and increase strength and stability. We can help address many issues related to pregnancy, including muscle or joint pain due to mechanical changes.
We can also help with concerns such as urinary incontinence, diastasis rectus abdominus, or pelvic pain. If you have questions about any of these things, come see us!
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Riebe, Deborah, et al. ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription. 10th ed., Wolters Kluwer, 2018.
“Exercise during Pregnancy.” ACOG, https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/exercise-during-pregnancy.