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Pregnant Women Need More Exercise

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Updated July 12, 2013

Pregnant Woman Exercising with Weights
Photo © iStockphoto

Exercising in pregnancy is good for you. It is also good for your baby. The benefits of exercise in pregnancy are not as well discussed as exercise at other points in your life. Some of the benefits of exercise include:

  • Fewer pregnancy complaints (Backache, constipation, etc.)

  • Less likely to gain excess weight in pregnancy

  • Decreased risk for gestational diabetes

  • Easier labor

  • Faster recovery from birth

  • Your baby will tend to be leaner and calmer

So why is it that the rates of women exercising in pregnancy is falling? Some speculate that it is because of outdated beliefs about pregnancy in general. The beliefs that say pregnant women should eat for two and hide in their homes. Women tend to say that they stop exercising when the start feeling poorly with exhaustion and morning sickness often interrupting their routines. The good news is that continuing to exercises will often help these common symptoms of pregnancy be less pronounced.

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has adopted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) guidelines for exercise in pregnancy. These guidelines state that pregnant women should do 30 minutes of moderate activity, most days of the week. The good news is that the doesn't have to be at the gym or organized. This can be as little as 6-7 days of walking with your husband or friends, or seven days of prenatal aerobics or any combination of moderate activity you want. There are very few exercises that are limited in pregnancy, talk to your doctor or midwife about your favorite forms of activity.

Warning Signs During Exercise

You should stop exercising immediately, no matter what your fitness level, if you have any of the following signs:

  • Dizziness

  • Faintness

  • Headaches

  • Shortness of Breath

  • Uterine contractions

  • Vaginal Bleeding or fluid leaking

  • Heart Palpitations

Exercise can be a fun part of your everyday life. There are simply ways of getting in 30 minutes of activity nearly every day. One key is to remember that it does not have to be a solid 30 minutes. You can break that down into three sessions of 10 minute lengths or two 15 minutes bouts. The key is fitting it into your lifestyle and making it become a healthy habit for life.

Your doctor or midwife should be able to answer many of your questions about pregnancy and exercise. If they prefer you to talk to a personal trainer be sure that they have experience with pregnant women. Your practitioner may even be able to give you a referral for support.

Sources:
Petersen et al, "Correlate of Physical Activity among Pregnant Women in the United States," Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise; Nov. 2005; p.1748-1753.

"Your Pregnancy & Birth, Fourth Edition." The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and Meredith Books, 2005.

Created 11/11/05 Updated 12/29/09

Readers Respond: How do you exercise in pregnancy?

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