Frequently Asked Questions about Exercising During Pregnancy answered by Los Angeles Obstetrician Dr. Thais Aliabadi
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Q: Is it safe for me to exercise during pregnancy?
Many forms of exercise are completely safe during pregnancy and are beneficial to the health of you and your baby. If you already exercise regularly, you may continue to do so, although you may need to change your routine. If you do not exercise very often, you should start with some easy aerobic activity for as little as 5 minutes per day, working your way up to 30 minutes per day.
Q: What exercises should I do during pregnancy?
Pregnant women can safely enjoy low-impact aerobics, such as:
- Group fitness classes, such as spinning and yoga
- Light to moderate weight and resistance training
- Running – If you were already a runner or jogger before pregnancy, you may continue practicing your routine.
Q: What exercises should I avoid while pregnant?
You should refrain from activities that put you at risk of falling or injury, especially high-impact exercises and contact sports.
- Downhill and water skiing
- Horseback riding
- Heavy weight lifting
- Soccer, hockey, and other contact sports
- Tennis, squash, and other sports that may throw you off balance
- Exercising while lying on your stomach, or while lying on your back after the first trimester – this compresses the womb and could cut off circulation to the baby
- Scuba diving – the dramatic changes in pressure could cause decompression sickness in the fetus
- Running – If you are a beginner, pregnancy is not a good time to start running.
Q: How does pregnancy affect my ability to exercise?
During pregnancy, your body releases hormones that loosen your body’s ligaments. This helps your pelvis to expand, but it affects the mobility of your other joints as well. This is why it’s important to avoid high-impact exercises that put your at higher risk of injury.
Additionally, your growing belly will cause your center of gravity to shift forward, which can be difficult to get used to. You will want to avoid activities that require quick shifts in direction and rapid acceleration and deceleration to reduce the risk of falling. You will likely also experience more muscular strain and back pain from the stress of carrying the extra weight.
Exercising while pregnant could also lead to some overheating and dehydration. Drink plenty of fluids before, during, and after exercising. Plain water is fine, as well as electrolyte drinks without a lot of sugars. Although researchers haven’t come to a clear conclusion about how much caffeine is safe to consume during pregnancy, it’s probably best to avoid energy drinks.
Q: What are the benefits of exercising during pregnancy?
Doctors recommend getting at least 30 minutes of exercise each day during pregnancy. Exercise has many benefits for pregnant women, including:
- Boosting your energy
- Improving your sleep cycle
- Elevating your mood
- Developing better posture to reduce joint pain and muscle soreness
- Relieving some unpleasant symptoms of pregnancy, including constipation, bloating, and swelling
- Promoting cardiovascular health
- Preventing or treating gestational diabetes – a form of diabetes caused by pregnancy hormones that usually goes away after childbirth
Q: What are some other tips for exercising during pregnancy?
- Invest in some comfortable, well-padded sneakers. You may need to go a size or two up to make room for swelling feet.
- Wear a well-fitting sports bra to support tender or swollen breasts during exercise.
- Skip rigorous outdoor exercise on hot, humid days to reduce the risk of overheating.
- Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated, before and after exercise as well as during.
- If you’re just starting an exercise routine, start slowly with a few minutes each day. You can increase your time by a few minutes each week to work your way up to 30 minutes.
Q: I don’t feel well. Should I keep exercising?
You should stop exercising and rest if you become ill or develop a fever. You should also stop and call your doctor if you experience:
- Dizziness, fainting, or weakness
- Chest pain or shortness of breath
- Pain and swelling in the calves
- Vaginal bleeding
- Diminished movement from the fetus
- Your water breaking