Exercising during your pregnancy will help you feel good, and may make your labor and delivery easier. It will also keep your weight gain in check.
While putting on 25–30 pounds is healthy for most pregnant women, becoming seriously overweight can cause health issues for mothers and their babies.
Here’s what you need to know about exercise and your body during pregnancy:
- Most exercises are safe during pregnancy, as long as you exercise with caution and stop when you feel tired. Talk with your health care provider about your exercise regimen or plans, to make sure it’s right for you during pregnancy.
- The safest and most productive activities are those that carry little risk of injury, benefit your entire body and can be continued until birth. These include swimming, brisk walking, indoor stationary cycling and elliptical machines, and low-impact aerobics or yoga tailored specifically to pregnant women.
- Your developing baby and the other demands of pregnancy require more oxygen and energy. You may find that you become out of breath or fatigued more easily.
- Hormones produced during pregnancy cause the ligaments that support your joints to stretch, increasing the risk of injury.
- Your center of gravity shifts during pregnancy, and the added weight of your uterus and baby puts stress on your joints and muscles in the lower back and pelvic area. It is easier to lose your balance, so you may wish to avoid exercises that require it.
- Tennis, racquetball, squash and other court sports requiring rapid movements may become risky as your pregnancy proceeds. Also avoid exercises in which you must twist at the waist while standing or, after your third month of pregnancy, that require lying on your back or right side for more than a few minutes.
- One of the most effective exercises during pregnancy involves strengthening the muscles in your pelvic floor—those that support your uterus, bladder, bowels and vagina. Otherwise known as Kegel exercises, these strengthening moves can help you control your muscles during labor and delivery.
If you have a medical problem, such as asthma, heart disease or diabetes, or if your pregnancy is the result of in-vitro fertilization, your healthcare provider may want you to limit your exercise program or monitor it closely.
Your health care provider may also wish to limit or monitor the exercise you do if you have an obstetric condition, such as bleeding or spotting, low placenta, threatened or recurrent miscarriage, previous premature births or a history of early labor.
Fitness Tips for Later in Pregnancy
If you’ve been physically active during your pregnancy, here are some tips to keep in mind as you prepare for labor:
- Your exercise should include strength and stretch (with your health care providers approval, of course).
- Include Kegel exercises, which strengthen the muscles in your pelvic floor—those that support your uterus, bladder, bowels and vagina. Kegel exercises can help you control your muscles during labor and delivery. Here’s how to do Kegels.
- Relaxation and visualization techniques will help you to prepare for releasing tension during labor.
- Drink lots of water: 6–8 glasses per day or 8–10 glasses per day if you are exercising.
- Listen to your body and work at your level of perceived exertion.