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Safe exercise in pregnancy

By Susan Peck, MSN, APN

Safe exercise in pregnancy

If you’re like many expectant moms, exercise during pregnancy seems like a scary, potentially dangerous activity. You may wonder ‘will I hurt my baby or my body?’ Friends or family might tell you it’s unsafe, that pregnancy should be a time of rest and relaxation. However, the facts show that pregnancy is a great time to be active, even if you haven’t exercised before.

How Much Activity is Safe in Pregnancy?

If you already exercise, keep up the good work! Exercising during pregnancy keeps you and your growing baby healthy; it may even prevent some common pregnancy complications.

Unless your healthcare provider has said otherwise, try to get 20-30 minutes of moderate activity most days of the week, say updated guidelines from the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists. This is dedicated time for activity; it doesn’t include the time you’ll also spend working or taking care of your home or family.

Starting Exercise in Pregnancy

If you’re not active now, start gradually and increase your time and effort as you go. Discuss your activity with your nurse at each prenatal visit. Regular exercise may help prevent gestational diabetes, which is one of the most common health complications of pregnancy. If you’re overweight or obese, your risks for this complication are greater than if you started pregnancy at a healthy weight as it helps you control how fast you gain weight. Plus exercise helps promote good heart health, normal blood sugar levels and it helps you gain pregnancy weight gradually, as recommended.

Studies show that exercise may prevent gestational diabetes, one of the most common problems of pregnancy. Overweight and obese moms are at greater risk for diabetes, and regular exercise will help to control your weight gain. Additionally, physical activity helps to maintain and even lower your blood sugar levels. If you already have diabetes or are overweight, it is safe and important to exercise to lower your risk of diabetes-related complications. Strengthening your core and back muscles may also help with lower back pain, a common complaint among mamas-to-be. And did you know that exercise in pregnancy might determine how you deliver your baby? Research shows that moms who exercise throughout their pregnancy have up to a 15% lower chance of needing to have a cesarean. That’s quite a reduction!

Another benefit of regular exercise? Many researchers say it can lower rates of depression and stress in pregnancy, helping you feel well and happy overall. You many even experience less of the common aches and pains of pregnancy when your body is active.

Safe Exercises for Pregnancy

Walking fast, jogging, using a stationary bike, weight training, low-impact aerobics, yoga and swimming are safe for expecting moms—go ahead, get out there and sweat! It’s a myth raising your heart rate will hurt baby.

Avoid contact sports like karate, ice hockey and soccer, as well as activities where you could experience trauma or risk falling, such as horseback riding, skiing or surfing.. Also, don’t forget about your pelvic floor—keeping those muscles strong will make for an easier labor and delivery.

Modified yoga and stretching is acceptable, but skip the hot yoga or hot Pilates. Stay hydrated during all activities; avoid long periods of lying on your back, and stop exercising immediately if you experience any of these warning signs: vaginal bleeding, dizziness, headache, chest pain, muscle weakness or calf pain or swelling.

Make time for exercise—your body and your baby will thank you!


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Susan Peck, MSN, APN, is a nurse practitioner in New Brunswick, NJ, and an expert advisor to Healthy Mom&Baby.


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