Taking care of yourself throughout your pregnancy is the best way to help your baby to have a healthy start. Including some form of physical activity in your daily routine can improve your overall health and fitness, which will be good for your baby. One thing to keep in mind is that pregnancy is not the time to exercise with the intention of losing weight.
For most women, exercise during pregnancy is safe, particularly if you were physically active before you became pregnant. If you are healthy, it is probably safe to start or continue an exercise program during pregnancy, but it’s best to talk to your obstetrician to make sure he or she doesn’t have any concerns or restrictions that you should follow.
Benefits of Exercise
Exercise can do more than improve your overall physical fitness. Here are some of the other benefits of exercise
- Helps improve your mood
- Can help you sleep better
- May relieve bloating and constipation
- Can decrease back pain
- Increases your energy level
- Improves your posture
- Can help you not to gain excess weight
- May increase your strength and fitness and ultimately make it easier to cope with labor
- Exercise may also make it easier for you to lose the pregnancy weight after the baby is born.
Choosing an Exercise During Your Pregnancy
If you were doing an exercise program before you got pregnant, you will probably be able to continue doing the same activities. If exercise is new to you, start slowly. Your OBGYN will give you some suggestions of exercises that are safe. Walking is one of the best exercises to help you to be more active without overdoing it. Yoga, swimming, and stretching exercises can also be very beneficial during your pregnancy.
You will want to avoid high-intensity aerobics, jumping or contact sports. Make sure to drink plenty of water and be careful not to hold your breath during exercise. Don’t exercise to the point of exhaustion or try to ignore warning signs that your body gives you such as pain or lightheadedness.
Whatever type of exercise you choose to engage in, it’s important that you stay well hydrated. If you are engaged in low-key exercise, such as a brisk walk, you can bring a bottle of water with you. Otherwise, be sure to drink plenty of fluids throughout the day. The more you sweat, the more water you should drink!
Additionally, plan your workouts so that you aren’t exercising during the hottest or most humid time of day, especially in the summer. If you notice any signs of dehydration, be sure to drink more water before your next workout.
Can I Exercise at Home?
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, fitness centers are often unavailable for workouts. Further, pregnant women are often counseled by their physicians to be quite cautious about their health, so even if the gym was open, you might be hesitant about attending. As a result, exercising from home has become incredibly popular–and important!
If you’re pregnant, there are several exercises you can easily do from home, often without the need for extra equipment or training. Again, it’s worth emphasizing that you should not be exercising with an eye towards losing weight (unless otherwise directed by your doctor)–instead, the goal should be staying healthy and active.
Some of the most popular at-home exercises include the following:
One of the easiest ways to get your heartrate up is to go for a daily jog or run. Your fitness level will likely determine just how active you want your jog to be. If you’re just getting started, start with a brisk walk around the block. If you’ve been running 5 miles a day, it’s probably okay to keep that up.
While you’re pregnant, you should consider keeping to level or smooth sidewalks and paths during your jog or walk.
You can’t really go to spin classes anymore. But you can still spin from home. Stationary cycling–also known as spin–can be an incredibly good workout, and it’s safe to do while you’re pregnant. If you need a class to get involved, there are plenty of spin videos on YouTube you can follow along with (or spin classes through zoom that can do in a pinch).
Stationary cycling is generally safe for pregnant women, right through to the third trimester (though higher handlebars may be more comfortable at that point).
Yoga can have all kinds of benefits, whether you’re pregnant or not. And all you need is a mat and some space on the floor (other tools might be handy, but they aren’t exactly necessary). Yoga workouts can range from low-key (designed to help you relax and meditate) to high-energy (designed for fitness and flexibility).
When you’re pregnant, you’ll likely want to avoid yoga positions that force you to become unbalanced or that require you to spend significant time on your back.
Squats and Pelvic Tilts
Some exercises are designed specifically to help your body get ready for your pregnancy and ensuing child birth. For example, some squat and pelvic tilt routines are designed to help target muscles that can help with delivery.
Be sure to talk to your OBGYN about what types of physical activity might help you prepare for your pregnancy, and how best you might perform those activities from home.
Benefits of Exercising at Home
In some ways, exercising at home can be a benefit. Yes, you may lose out on the camaraderie and accountability of the gym. But it’s easier to schedule your physical activity and build a routine that works for you. If you want more ideas on what exercises might work in a home-environment, talk to your OBGYN about what might fit your body and lifestyle best.
Conditions That May Make Exercise During Pregnancy Unsafe
There are certain conditions that may make it risky to exercise during pregnancy. Your OBGYN will probably advise against exercise if you have an existing health problem, such as heart disease or lung disease. If you have severe anemia or hypertension, you may also be cautioned against exercise.
If you are carrying multiples, your doctor may advise against exercise because of the risk of going into preterm labor. Other conditions may become apparent as your pregnancy progresses that make exercise no longer safe, such as preeclampsia or placenta previa after 26 weeks of pregnancy.
Considerations as Pregnancy Progresses
As your pregnancy progresses, there are other considerations that may affect your ability to exercise. The extra weight you are gaining shifts your center of gravity and increases your risk of falling. Hormones cause joints to become more mobile which could lead to pain or injury.
As your uterus grows, you may find that you are more and more short of breath. This may make it more difficult to do any type of strenuous exercise.
Signs That You Should Stop Exercising
There are certain signs that indicate you should stop exercising right away. These signs include:
- Leaking fluid or blood from the vagina
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Pain or swelling in the calf
- Painful or regular uterine contractions
If you experience any of these symptoms, call your OB/GYN right away. Throughout your pregnancy, keep in contact with your obstetrician and communicate how much you are exercising and how you are feeling.