The Benefits of Staying Active During Pregnancy

By Lindsey Johnson

Many women grew up believing that pregnancy is a time to take it easy, put your feet up on the couch and by all means avoid exercise. While sometimes the modern pregnant woman does need to put her feet up and relax, doctors are now encourage staying active during pregnancy and after.

What are the benefits of staying active during pregnancy?

Regular activity has many benefits throughout a lifetime, but there are additional benefits specific to a healthy pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum period. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) encourages women to get and stay active during pregnancy for best outcomes for mother and baby. A meta-analysis review indicates that 30-60 minutes of aerobic exercise two to seven days per week can provide a variety of benefits in different maternal populations, such as reducing risk of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, preterm birth and Cesarean section. Regular activity can also help minimize the aches and pains of pregnancy, such as back pain and overall body aches as well as aid in a smooth delivery. There is also evidence that exercise helps in the prevention of postpartum depression.

What exercise is safe during pregnancy?

Your baseline activity level indicates what might be right for you while you are pregnant. If you are already an avid exerciser, you can likely continue doing many of the same movements you were already doing. If your pre-pregnancy lifestyle was fairly sedentary, you’ll want to ease into activity slowly, perhaps by walking or riding a stationary bike. As your baby grows and puts increased pressure on your lungs, it may become necessary to slow down, but not stop entirely.

According to Medical News Today, some activities are not advised during pregnancy. After the first trimester, activities with a fall risk such as skating, rock climbing and skiing are discouraged. ACOG recommends that contact sports such as boxing, wrestling, basketball, football or lacrosse are best saved for after delivery. Certain movements such as jumping, jerky movements and exercises performed on the back or stomach after the first trimester are discouraged. During pregnancy, joints can loosen and you may be more likely to cause injury. Significant falls or injuries can risk placental abruption and put the baby at risk as well.

Exercises that are generally considered safe during pregnancy include walking, swimming, water aerobics, yoga and pilates. Inversion movements such as headstands or downward facing
dog pose are not typically advised. Hot yoga is also not advised due to the rise in core body temperature. If you are regularly performing other types of activities before becoming pregnant, you may be able to continue in a modified capacity, particularly in the first trimester.

How do I make my exercise plan?

If you are currently pregnant or considering a baby in your future, talk to your doctor about what is appropriate for you. Medical history, pre-existing conditions and other factors will help your care team make a plan that is safe for you and your baby. Remember that every pregnancy is different, so even if you have other children, the recommendations based on the unique circumstances of this pregnancy may vary from what you’ve done in the past. Remember to have fun, stay active and use this time to bond with your baby!


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