Over 50 randomized controlled studies have been done to analyze the outcomes of exercise during pregnancy and the research supports exercising throughout pregnancy, citing reductions in health risks for mother and baby. *Please note that the research cited here involved mothers with uncomplicated pregnancies, carrying a single child. Overall, they found that women who exercised during pregnancy had a lower incidence of excessive gestational weight gain, gestational diabetes, preterm birth, gestational high blood pressure disorders, low birth weight and a higher incidence of vaginal delivery rather than cesarean delivery.

The randomized control trials that found exercise to be safe & beneficial during pregnancy recommend:

  • Begin exercising in the first trimester and continue, as tolerated, through the third trimester
  • Types of Exercise: stationary biking, walking, running, dancing, stretching, yoga or pilates, resistance exercise with bands or weights and swimming or water aerobics (Prolonged exercise with the expectant mother on her back are not recommended during pregnancy in addition to contact sports or activities with high risk of falls such as skiing or horseback riding.
  • Duration: ~30 minutes of activity
  • Frequency: at least 3-4 days per week

With these exercises, intensity may vary. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends that pregnant women keep exercise at a moderate intensity. In order to avoid overexertion, pregnant women should be able to carry on a conversation during activity. Heart rate can also be tracked to monitor exercise intensity. Research suggests it is safe to stay below 60-80% of maximum maternal heart rate. (Maximum Heart Rate = 220 – age)

During pregnancy the female body adapts to a shifting center of mass as the baby grows, hormones fluctuate and cause systemic changes in ligamentous laxity to allow for delivery, and temperature regulation may be impacted by fetal development and different allocation of resources. A change in center of gravity may alter her balance, so it is important to be mindful during activities that can put her at risk of falls. Ligamentous laxity occurs at the pelvis to aid in delivery, but the hormonal shift can also loosen other joints in the body. Exercises and stretches should stay within normal limits of range of motion to avoid strain at extra mobile areas. Temperature regulation is an important piece of exercise/activity tolerance, so the exercising pregnant woman should take adequate rest breaks and maintain good hydration before, during and after activity to maintain healthy body temperature for herself and baby.

It is important to note that exercise should be tailored to fit each individual woman, taking into consideration her health, fitness level, stage of pregnancy, and goals. If possible, exercise should be prescribed and/or supervised by a professional with experience working with pregnant women.

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology does list a few conditions that put a hard stop on exercising during pregnancy, including:

  • Hemodynamically significant heart disease
  • Restrictive lung disease
  • Incompetent cervix/cerclage
  • Multiple gestation at risk for premature labour
  • Persistent second or third trimester bleeding
  • Placenta praevia after 26 weeks gestation
  • Premature labor during the current pregnancy
  • Ruptured membranes
  • Pregnancy induced hypertension

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology also has some red flags that can present during exercise, if experiencing these symptoms, terminate exercise and seek medical attention:

  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Shortness of breath before exertion
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Chest pain
  • Unexplained muscle weakness
  • Calf pain, swelling and/or redness that may be indicative of a blood clot
  • Preterm labor
  • Decreased fetal movement
  • Amniotic fluid leakage

Disclaimer: If you continue to experience unbearable, reoccurring pain, be sure to schedule an appointment with your physician or join our physical therapy family and allow us to help you regain function.

Iron Health is located in Briarcliff Manor and the greater Westchester NY area; our neighboring towns include Chappaqua, Mount Kisco, Tarrytown, Irvington and Pleasantville. If you have any questions, fill out a Discovery Session form and we will contact you as soon as possible. OR If you have any questions, fill out a short form by clicking the button below and we will contact you as soon as possible.

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