Pregnancy and Exercise Q&A
Pregnancy is a time of many changes, and for first time moms, many questions. On the topic of fitness, you may be wondering if you can continue your current training schedule, or if you have previously not been active you may wish to start exercising.
Let's look at some of the most common questions regarding pregnancy and exercise:
Q: What are the benefits of exercising during pregnancy?
A: Some of the benefits of an active pregnancy are:
- Maintaining overall strength, particularly a strong core, can help prevent back pain
- Preventing excessive weight gain during pregnancy (1)
- Lower risk of macrosomia, a term used to describe significantly larger than average newborns, which can complicate vaginal delivery (1)
- Preventing gestational diabetes (2)
- Less constipation
- Energy boost
- Relief of edema
- Easier delivery through increased strength and endurance
Q: Can I start exercising during pregnancy?
A: As soon as your health care provider gives you the green light, you can begin exercising. Start with light exercise of short duration. Walking or swimming, and light resistance training is a good start.
Q: Can I continue training during pregnancy?
A: Given that you are having an uncomplicated pregnancy and your ob/gyn okays it, you can generally continue your active lifestyle, with a few precautions.
Q: Are there exercises I should avoid?
A: There are a few exercises and activities that are best avoided, even for healthy, experienced athletes:
- After the first trimester, exercises that require lying on your back for a prolonged amount of time. In advanced pregnancy this position may cause the uterus to compress the inferior vena cava, the vein that returns blood from the lower and middle parts of the body back to the heart
- Sports and activities that involve a risk of impact to the abdomen, such as most contact and high impact sports. Some examples are martial arts, extreme sports, skating, and horseback riding
- Scuba diving, due to lack of research regarding the safety of scuba diving during human pregnancy (3)
- Any movement that causes pain or discomfort.
Q: Can exercising increase my risk of miscarriage?
A: The vast majority of ob/gyns agree that exercise does not increase the risk of miscarriage in healthy pregnancies. (4,5)
Laura Riley, MD, spokeswoman for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), says: "You need to be physically active during pregnancy. It has terrific benefits that are associated with a better pregnancy outcome and even shorter labors. It's a win-win for baby and for mom." (5)
A number of professional athletes have competed in the Olympics while pregnant. To read more, click here (external link).
1. Lawrie, T. A., Lumbiganon, P., & Laopaiboon, M. (1996). Diet or exercise, or both, for preventing excessive weight gain in pregnancy. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. doi:10.1002/14651858.cd007145.pub3
2. Koivusalo, S. B., Rönö, K., Klemetti, M. M., Roine, R. P., Lindström, J., Erkkola, M., … Centre, 15 F. R. (2016). Gestational diabetes Mellitus can be prevented by lifestyle intervention: The Finnish gestational diabetes prevention study (RADIEL). Considerations in the Management of Gestational Diabetes Mellitus, 39(1), 24–30. doi:10.2337/dc15-0511
3. Held, H., & Pollock, N. W. Divers alert network — medical dive article. Retrieved February 10, 2017, from The Risks of Pregnancy and Diving, http://www.diversalertnetwork.org/medical/articles/The_Risks_of_Pregnancy_and_Diving
4. Can exercise cause miscarriage? (2014, June 6). Retrieved from http://www.todaysparent.com/pregnancy/can-exercise-cause-miscarriage-2/
5. Bouchez, C. (2009, February 6). Exercise during pregnancy: Myth vs. Fact. Retrieved February 10, 2017, from WebMD, http://www.webmd.com/baby/features/exercise-during-pregnancy-myth-vs-fact#1