YES! Exercise has been shown to be beneficial throughout pregnancy. Benefits include decrease in backaches, constipation, bloating and swelling. Additionally, regular exercise has been shown to prevent or treat diabetes that develops during pregnancy, especially in those women with a BMI (body mass index) greater than 33. Exercise also boosts your mood and energy level and helps you sleep better. Additionally, it creates good workout habits that can be continued after delivery.
Despite all of these benefits, some pregnant women should not exercise due to health problems or risk to the baby. These women include those with significant heart or lung disease, a cervix with early dilation or cerclage (a treatment for a weak cervix); multiple babies, multiple episodes of bleeding in the second and third trimesters, low lying placenta after 26 weeks, premature labor during this pregnancy, or preeclampsia. Even if you do not have any of these conditions, talk to your doctor before starting a new workout.
If you have never exercised before, walking, swimming, cycling, or aerobics are excellent ways to start. Begin exercising a minimum of 5 minutes per day, increasing your exercise time by 5 minutes per week. The goal is 30 minutes of moderate exercise on most to all days of the week.
For those regular athletes, continue your previous workout routine with modifications as needed.
Exercises to avoid: down-hill skiing, contact sports, scuba diving, horseback riding, or activities with jumping or sudden changes in direction. Pregnancy hormones cause relaxation of the ligaments in the back and pelvis, making you less stable than before pregnancy, so try new exercises cautiously. After the first trimester, avoid lying flat on your back. At this point, your uterus is large enough to compress the vein that brings blood up from your legs to your heart. When this vein is compressed, the baby’s blood and oxygen are limited.
While exercising, wear a well fitting sports bra and comfortable clothing. Drink plenty of water before, during, and after the workout to keep you and baby hydrated. Continue exercising as long as you feel strong and stable. Reasons to stop exercising include: dizziness, near fainting, increasing shortness of breath, chest pain, headache, muscle weakness, calf pain, loss of fluid from the vagina, vaginal bleeding, contractions, or decreased fetal movement.
Talk to you physician about your workout plan before you start, and if you have questions along the way. Exercise is physically and mentally beneficial throughout pregnancy. Staying active during pregnancy will make it easier to workout after delivery, helping you to lose weight and keep up with your new little one!
Shannon Armbruster, M.D.
Obstetrics and Gynecology PGY2
Summa Akron City Hospital