Moving, staying active and gaining the right amount of weight during pregnancy can help keep you and your baby healthy. For most women, being active during pregnancy is a good thing. But you don’t need to head to the gym to increase activity. With a few daily changes to your routine, you’ll be moving more in no time.
Some women think that pregnancy is a time to sit back and put their feet up. Not so! For most women, it’s important to be active during pregnancy. In fact, exercise during pregnancy can be really good for you. Healthy pregnant women need at least 2½ hours of exercise each week. This is about 30 minutes each day. If this sounds like a lot, don’t worry. You don’t have to do it all at once. Instead, split up your exercise by doing something active for 10 minutes three times each day.
With your health care provider’s OK, exercising during pregnancy is safe for you and your baby. Talk to your health care provider before you start any exercise program. Ask about what kinds of activities are safe for you to do.
If your provider says it’s OK for you to exercise, pick activities you think you’ll enjoy. Some hospitals and health clubs offer aerobics and yoga classes just for pregnant women. Or try things you can do with your partner or friends, like walking or dancing. Swimming is a great activity for pregnant women. The water supports the weight of your growing body, and moving against it keeps your heart rate up. If you exercised before you were pregnant, it’s usually safe to continue your activities during pregnancy. Check with your provider to make sure. As your pregnancy continues and your belly gets bigger, you may need to change some activities or ease up on your workout. If you didn’t exercise before you were pregnant, start slowly. Try to build up your fitness little by little.
Here are some tips to help you reach your fitness goals:
- Park farther away in the parking lot when you visit stores or go grocery shopping.
- Set a timer on your phone to get up, stretch and walk around your house or office once every hour.
- If you are watching TV, take the time to stretch out your arms and legs.
- Walk and talk while you are on the phone, whether it be outside or around your house.
- When walking around the office, grocery store or parking lot, walk the long way instead of taking shortcuts.
- Plan fun outdoor weekend activities. Apple picking season is in full-swing – take a walk around the orchard while you pick some apples.
- Skip the elevator and take the stairs.
- Calling or emailing your co-worker at work? Get up and take a walk over to chat instead.
Is physical activity safe for all pregnant women?
No, not every woman should exercise during pregnancy. Don't exercise if you have:
- Heart problems that affect blood flow
- Preterm labor. Preterm labor is labor that happens too early, before 37 weeks of pregnancy.
- An incompetent cervix. This is a cervix that opens too early, before the baby is full term.
- Lung disease
- A pregnancy with twins, triplets or more (also called multiples). Being pregnant with multiples increases your chances for having preterm labor.
- Vaginal bleeding during the second or third trimesters (from 4 months of pregnancy on) that doesn’t go away
- Ruptured membranes (when your water breaks)
- Preeclampsia. This is a condition that can happen after the 20th week of pregnancy or right after pregnancy. It’s when a pregnant woman has high blood pressure and signs that some of her organs, like her kidneys and liver, may not be working properly. Some of these signs include having protein in the urine, changes in vision and severe headache.
- Placenta previa. This is when the placenta sits low in the uterus and covers all or part of the cervix. The placenta supplies the baby with food and oxygen through the umbilical cord. The cervix is the opening to the uterus that sits at the top of the vagina.
Ask your provider if it's safe for you to exercise if:
- You have a health problem, like anemia, high blood pressure, diabetes, a thyroid problem or seizures
- You’re overweight or underweight
Why is physical activity during pregnancy good for you?
For healthy pregnant women, exercise can:
- Keep your heart, body and mind healthy
- Help you feel good and find the extra energy you need
- Help you stay fit and gain the right amount of weight during pregnancy
- Ease some of the discomforts you might have during pregnancy, like constipation, backaches, trouble sleeping and varicose veins (swollen veins)
- Prevent health problems like preeclampsia and gestational diabetes
- Help your body get ready to give birth
- Help reduce stress
Does pregnancy change how your body responds to exercise?
Yes. During pregnancy, your body changes in many ways. When you’re being active, you may notice these changes:
- Breathing. You need more oxygen when you’re pregnant, especially in your second and third trimesters. Your growing belly puts pressure on your lungs, making them work harder in a smaller space. You may even find yourself feeling short of breath at times.
- Heart rate. Your heart works harder and beats quicker during pregnancy to get oxygen to your baby. You may have less energy for exercise.
- Body temperature. You start sweating sooner than you did before pregnancy. To protect yourself and your baby from overheating, your body starts sweating at a lower body temperature.
- Balance. As your body changes during pregnancy, so does your sense of balance. You may notice that you lose your balance more easily.
- Joints. Your hormones (chemicals made by the body) are at high levels during pregnancy. This can make the tissues in your body more relaxed. Try to avoid any movements that may strain or hurt your joints.
Can being active during pregnancy help you after pregnancy?
Yes. Once your baby is born, being active can help you regain your energy and get back to your prepregnancy weight. It also can help prevent the baby blues. Baby blues are feelings of sadness that some women have in the first few days after having a baby.
Once your baby is born, when can you start exercising again?
You may feel ready to exercise again a few days after your baby is born. Or you may want to wait longer. With your health provider's OK, you can start light exercise as soon as you feel up to it. If you were active during your pregnancy, it’s easier to get back into exercise after your baby is born. Just be sure to start slowly. If you feel pain or have other problems during exercise, stop doing the activity and talk to your provider. If you had a cesarean section (also called c-section), don’t exercise until your provider says it’s OK. A c-section is surgery in which your baby is born through a cut your provider makes in your belly and uterus.