Pregnancy and Children

Exercise and Pregnancy

Exercise and Pregnancy     Exercise and Pregnancy

Unless there are medical reasons to avoid exercising you can benefit from regular daily exercise. Exercise will help you feel better, can help keep you healthy, and can help prevent too much weight gain during pregnancy.

Exercise and Pregnancy Questions and Answers

Most women benefit from exercising throughout their pregnancy. However, before beginning any new exercise program or continuing with any program you started before the pregnancy, you should talk with your health care provider to be sure you do not have any health conditions that should limit your activity during the pregnancy.

The following information has been adapted from the websites listed at the bottom of this page.

Things to Consider Before Exercising

It is important that you discuss your exercise plans with your health care provider. Some pregnant women should not exercise, especially if they are at risk of preterm labor or suffer from any kind of serious medical problem such as heart or lung disease.

As part of your exercise program you need to be careful to avoid any activities that put you at high risk for injury, such as horseback riding, scuba diving, downhill skiing, soccer, or bouncing exercises.

When you exercise, pay attention to your body and how you feel. Build up your level of fitness gradually and if you experience vaginal bleeding, pain, dizziness, shortness of breath, headaches, chest pain, decreased fetal movement or contractions, or fluid leaking from your vagina, stop exercising and contact your health care provider immediately.

Benefits of Exercising During Pregnancy

Regular exercise is one of the best things you can do for your both your physical and mental health.  The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that a pregnant woman without health problems or pregnancy complications exercise moderately for 30 minutes or more on most, if not all, days of the week.

Some of the reasons to get regular exercise during pregnancy include the following:

  • while you may be feeling fatigue, exercise can actually increase and boost your energy level

  • at the time when your body may feel so different, exercise can increase your sense of control

  • proper exercise can help strengthen muscles in your back, buttocks and thighs and thus can help relieve backaches and improve your posture

  • regular exercise can help reduce constipation by accelerating movement in your intestine

  • exercise may actually prevent wear and tear on your joints which become loosened during pregnancy due to normal hormonal changes

  • help reduce sleep problems during your pregnancy

  • reduce the risk of high blood pressure and diabetes

  • staying active can protect your emotional health since pregnant women who exercise seem to have better self-esteem and a lower risk of depression and anxiety

  • after delivery exercise can help you regain your pre-pregnancy weight and body tone more quickly

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and other sources provide the following guidelines regaining exercise during pregnancy:

  • When you exercise, start slowly, progress gradually, and cool down slowly.

  • Avoid jerky, bouncing and high-impact movements.

  • After 20 weeks of pregnancy, avoid doing any exercise on your back.

  • Avoid brisk exercise in hot, humid weather or when you are sick with a fever.

  • Avoid exercising at high altitudes (more than 6,000 feet) since it can prevent your baby from getting enough oxygen.

  • Wear comfortable clothing that will help you to remain cool.

  • Wear a bra that fits well and give lots of support to help protect your breasts and the muscles that support them.

  • Make sure you drink lots of fluids before, during and after exercising.

  • Make sure to eat a healthy diet and consume the extra 300 calories a day you need during pregnancy.

  • If you begin an exercise program in the first trimester or second trimester, you should do your best to continue it through the third trimester.

A Special Exercise: Kegel Exercises

Kegel exercises can help prepare your body for delivery. The pelvic floor muscles support the rectum, vagina, and urethra in the pelvis. Pelvic muscles are the same ones used to stop the flow of urine.  Strengthening these muscles by doing Kegel exercises may help you have an easier birth. They will also help you avoid leaking urine during and after pregnancy.

Many women are uncertain about which are the right muscles involved in Kegel exercises. You can be sure you are exercising the right muscles if when you squeeze them you stop urinating. Or you can put a finger into the vagina and squeeze. If you feel pressure around the finger, you have found the pelvic floor muscles.  Do not practice Kegel exercises by regularly stopping and starting your flow of urine while you are actually urinating since this a can lead to incomplete emptying of your bladder and increase the risk of an urinary tract infection.

To do Kegel exercises: Tighten the pelvic floor muscles for 5 to 10 seconds and then relax for 5 seconds. Repeat 10 to 20 times, 3 times a day. Kegel exercises can be done standing, sitting, or lying down.

Additional Information

March of Dimes: Exercise during pregnancy

Kids health: Exercise during pregnancy

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