Getting up and moving while pregnant offers a world of benefits to you and your growing baby. Regular, moderate exercise—favorites include walking and water aerobics—can help reduce the risk of developing gestational diabetes for some women; lessen pregnancy-related woes such as backache, bloating and constipation; increase energy; and improve mood.
Even if you were rarely active before becoming pregnant, you can start during pregnancy. Just be sure to check with your health care providers to make sure there are no medical or obstetrical reasons (called a contraindication) to avoid exercise.
Here are some guidelines to follow:
- Aim for 30 minutes of mild to moderate physical activity most days of the week. Women who have been inactive should start off slowly, with just a few minutes a day, and add five minutes a week until reaching the 30-minute level. Be sure to warm up, cool down and stretch.
- If you’ve been exercising before pregnancy, you probably can continue the same activity for awhile (check with your health care provider first). “Runners run during pregnancy,” Dr. Dugan says, noting that they usually stop when they become uncomfortable. “It’s not the same for everybody.”
- Moderate strength training helps your muscles and is safe for women who were doing such training before becoming pregnant.
- If you weren’t exercising regularly before your pregnancy, low-impact exercises are best. Walking, riding a stationary bicycle, using an elliptical machine, swimming or taking a water aerobics class are great ways to get active.
- Avoid contact sports or those in which you jump, change direction quickly or have a higher risk of falling: soccer, basketball, tennis, racquetball, downhill or water skiing, hockey and horseback riding. Do not scuba dive because the water pressure can harm your baby. “Even among professional athletes or recreational athletes, pregnancy brings changes, and one has to adapt to these changes,” says Dr. Artal.
- After the first trimester, don’t do exercises for which you must lie on your back.
- Exercise in the cooler parts of the day to protect yourself from overheating.
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- If you feel faint or dizzy, have vaginal bleeding or fluid leakage, shortness of breath or chest pain, decreased fetal movement or any other unusual physical symptoms, stop exercising and call your health care provider.