Exercise during Pregnancy - 44 Most Common Questions Answered

prenatal exercise Oct 26, 2020
 

Exercise during Pregnancy

I want to provide you with the answers to the most common questions regarding exercise during pregnancy. When new mamas join my classes, I often find the same questions being asked. So I want to chat about the why, what, how, when and just about everything else when it comes to exercise during pregnancy.

Safety First

First I want to answer some questions with regards to safety. The safety of you and your growing baby is paramount. I am a huge advocate for exercising when pregnant but there are some very important guidelines and precautions you must adhere to.

You will see that I have added some additional links below to related articles for specific topics to give you a more-in-depth answer. Let's get started!

1. Is it safe to exercise during pregnancy?

Yes, absolutely! If you are healthy, your pregnancy is normal, and your doctor has given you the all clear to exercise, then it is safe to continue or start regular physical activity.

2. Does exercising during pregnancy increase the risk of a miscarriage?

No, physical activity does not increase your risk of miscarriage, low birth weight, or early delivery. If your health care professional gives you the OK to exercise, you can discuss what activities you can do safely.

Other common questions include:

1. Will exercise cause miscarriage?

2. Can jumping cause miscarriage?

And the same answer applies in that exercise doesn't increase the risk of a miscarriage but I suggest you avoid jumping as it is high impact and can lead to other pregnancy-related injuries.

3. What are some cautions for pregnancy exercise?

Women with the following conditions or pregnancy complications should not exercise during pregnancy unless your doctor has given you their approval to do so:

  1. Being pregnant with multiples with risk of preterm labor.
  2. Heart and lung disease.
  3. Cerclage
  4. Severe anemia
  5. Placenta previa after 26 weeks of pregnancy.
  6. Preterm labor or ruptured membranes.
  7. Preeclampsia.
4. Are there any body changes that can affect your exercise routine?

You will likely experience significant body changes when you are pregnant. As a result, you need to choose exercises that take these following changes into account:

a. Your Balance

Your growing belly shifts your center of gravity which places stress on joints and muscles, especially those in your pelvis and lower back. As a result, you are at greater risk of falling because you are less stable and more likely to lose your balance.

b. Breathing

When you are pregnant, your need for oxygen increases. This may affect your ability to do strenuous exercise, especially if you are overweight or obese.

c. Joints

The pregnancy hormone called relaxin can cause the ligaments that support your joints to become relaxed. Therefore your joints become more mobile and at risk of injury. Because of this reason I want you to avoid jerky, bouncy, or high-impact exercises.

5. When should I stop exercising during pregnancy?

Pay attention to any of the following warning signs when you exercise. If you have any of them, stop and call your obstetrician:

1. Chest pain

2. Bleeding from the vagina

3. Calf pain or swelling

4. Feeling dizzy or faint

5. Shortness of breath before starting exercise

6. Headache

7. Muscle weakness

8. Regular, painful contractions of the uterus

9. Fluid gushing or leaking from the vagina

6. What safety precautions should I take when exercising during pregnancy?

I chat about these following precautions to my mamas in my in-studio prenatal classes and I also make sure our online members are aware to. So, here are the main precautions that you should keep in mind during exercise:

1. This first one is really important. I want you to buy a sports bra designed for pregnant women that gives you a lot of support to help protect your breasts.

2. Stay well-hydrated by drinking plenty of water before, during, and after your workout. Just so you know, here are the signs of dehydration: racing heart, dizziness, and urinating only small amounts or having urine that is dark yellow.

3. It is vital you avoid becoming overheated, especially in the first trimester. Exercise in a cool room and avoid exercising outside when it is very hot.

4. Avoid lying flat on your back because when you lie on your back, your uterus presses on a large vein that returns blood to the heart. This position may cause your blood pressure to decrease for a short time.

7. In which month should I start exercise during pregnancy?

Once approved, you can start. You may, or may not, be experiencing morning sickness or other pregnancy-related symptoms early on. But you still need to acknowledge that you are indeed pregnant and your workouts must now be modified for pregnancy.

Here are some other common questions I get:

  1. How many times a week should a pregnant woman exercise?
  2. Is it OK to exercise early pregnancy?

Related: Is it OK to Exercise when pregnant? Obstetrician Tells All

8. What are the benefits of exercise during pregnancy?

There are so many documented benefits of regular exercise during pregnancy. Here are just a few:

  1. Is good for your mental wellbeing.
  2. Reduces back pain.
  3. May decrease your risk of gestational diabetes.
  4. May decrease your risk of preeclampsia.
  5. Eases constipation.
  6. May decrease your risk of cesarean delivery.
  7. Improves your overall general fitness.
  8. Strengthens your heart and blood vessels.
  9. Assist with losing weight after childbirth.
  10. Exercise promotes healthy weight gain during pregnancy.

Related: 15 Benefits of Exercise during Pregnancy

9. How much should I exercise during pregnancy?

ACOG recommends that you get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week.

10. What intensity should I exercise at?

You want to exercise at a moderate intensity which means you are moving enough to raise your heart rate and start sweating. You should be able to talk normally.

11. What are the best pregnancy-safe exercises?
a. Swimming

This also includes water workouts. I taught PregAqua to pregnant women and they loved the class. There are many reasons why exercising in the water is beneficial such as the water supporting your weight so you avoid injury and muscle strain. Just be sure to make sure the water is not too hot (or cold) and always swim with someone around.

b. Walking

I loved walking when I was pregnant and I still do it every day now that I have a baby. Walking gives you a total body workout and is easy on the joints and muscles.

c. Stationary cycling

I say 'stationary' because I want you to avoid a normal road bike. Why? Because your growing belly can affect your balance and make you more prone to falls.

d. Prenatal yoga and Pilates

I teach prenatal yoga and Pilates classes which consist of modified exercises. While yoga reduces stress and improves flexibility; there are some poses you must avoid when pregnant.

12. What exercises should I avoid during pregnancy? 

1. Any high impact exercise.

2. Planks or push-ups.

3. Movements or exercise that places extreme pressure on your pelvic floor.

4. Traditional sit-ups and crunches.

5. Exercises where you are lying on your back (especially late in pregnancy).

6. Exercises where you hold your breath.

7. Exercise in hot, humid weather.

8. Sports where there is a greater risk of falling (snow skiing, horse riding).

9. Pregnancy Exercises that require lying on your back for long periods of time.

10. Exercises that require lying on your right side for long periods of time.

11. Exercises that require sudden twisting movements when standing.

12. Exercises that requires intense bursts of movement followed by long periods of no activity.

Avoid

1. Contact sports.
2. Hot yoga
3. Boot camps
4. Bouncing on a trampoline.
5. Lifting heavy weights.
6. High Intensity
7. Cross fit
8. Stair climbing
9. Marathon running
10. Exercises that may cause abdominal trauma or pressure
11. High-altitude training
12. Supine exercise position (lying on your back)
13. Exercises which involve lying on the stomach
14. Standing still for long periods of time
15. Scuba diving

13. Why is it important to keep exercising after my baby is born?

When you start exercising after childbirth will be a decision you and your doctor have based on your personal situation. Once approved, you can start to gently exercise after your baby is born as it may help improve mood and decreases the risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Start with walking then progress form there.

My Core Rehab for Mamas program has been specifically created as your first program to help heal your body as it recovers. This is ideal if you still have diastasis recti.

14. Are Pelvic floor exercises important during pregnancy?

Let's get straight to the point - doing your pelvic floor exercises will help you to prevent, or reduce, the severity of incontinence. Its is important to continue doing your Kegels all the way into your third trimester.

15. Should you do abdominal exercises when pregnant?

Why do core exercises? Without tone through these muscles and correct activation, there can be unnecessary pressure which can have a negative impact on your body, particularly your back and your pelvic floor function.

Your core muscles work as stabilizers for your entire body. So when you hear the term 'Core training' it is simply about doing specific exercises to develop and strengthen these stabilizer muscles.

When pregnant, or as a new mama, you want a strong core. If any of these core muscles are weakened, it could result in lower back pain or a protruding waistline.

So it is important to do your core exercises in order to keep your core muscles strong as they maintain your posture.

Can I do sit ups while pregnant?

Firstly, there are so many more effective and safe exercises you can do for your abs other than the old traditional sit-ups or crunches.

In fact, I recommend that you avoid these old style crunches.

Secondly, when you are pregnant you should not be worrying about trying to maintain your six-pack abs!

The problem with working your abs on your back when pregnant is that your growing uterus can compress the vena cava (major vessel that returns blood to your heart).

This can be potentially reduce blood flow and making you feel dizzy or nauseated. There is also a direct impact on your growing baby.

So, it is vital you maintain core strength throughout your pregnancy. This will help you during the delivery of your baby and also in the postpartum recovery period.

It is safe to exercise your ab muscles during pregnancy. The key point here is with the right modifications.

Related: Core Exercises when Pregnant and After Pregnancy

16. What weight should I gain during pregnancy?
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists say that:
a. If you're underweight (BMI under 18.5)

Your recommended total pregnancy weight gain is 28 to 40 pounds. ;In the second and third trimesters, aim to gain about a pound (1 to 1.3 pounds to be exact) per week.

b. If you're average weight (BMI of 18.5 to 24.9)

Your recommended total pregnancy weight gain is 25 to 35 pounds. In the second and third trimesters, aim to gain about a pound or a little less (0.8 to 1 pound to be exact) per week.

c. If you're overweight (BMI of 25 to 29.9)

Your recommended total pregnancy weight gain is 15 to 25 pounds. In the second and third trimesters, aim to gain a little over a half pound (0.5 to 0.7 pounds to be exact) per week.

d. If you're obese (BMI of 30 and above)

Your recommended total pregnancy weight gain is 11 to 20 pounds. In the second and third trimesters, aim to gain about a half pound (0.4 to 0.6 pounds to be exact) per week.

e. If you're 13 weeks pregnant with twins

Your recommended total pregnancy weight gain is 37 to 54 pounds. In the first half of your pregnancy, aim to gain about a pound per week. In the second half, aim to gain a little over a pound per week.

As always, consult your doctor regarding your pregnancy weight if you have an concerns.

Complications of Excessive Weight Gain during Pregnancy

There are some complications associated with too much weight gain such as:

1. Gestational diabetes

2. High blood pressure

3. Premature birth (baby is born at 37 weeks or earlier)

4. Heavy birth weight

5. Back pain

Related: Weight gain during pregnancy

17. How can I avoid getting fat during pregnancy?

So let's start by stating that you will gain weight throughout your pregnancy. That is obvious. Weight gain becomes a problem when you gain too much and are outside the recommended guidelines. In order to maintain a healthy weight you should eat healthy nutritious foods, exercise, try get plenty of sleep and maintain a healthy mindset.

18. Can you burn fat while pregnant?

Yes, you can the same way as when you are not pregnant. Again, participate in a regular fitness program and eat well. But please, now is not the time to be worrying about gaining 'healthy fat' as this is needed when pregnant.

19. What trimester do you gain the most weight?

This will be your third trimester.

20. How much weight do you lose when you give birth?

Most women lose about 13 pounds (5.9 kilograms) during childbirth, including the weight of the baby, placenta and amniotic fluid.

21. How can I strengthen my legs while pregnant?

There are some awesome leg exercises you can do while pregnant to help you stay strong and also tone your legs while pregnant? In my program I include modified squats to help you achieve your goal.

22. Can I do squats while pregnant third trimester?

Yes, as long as they are modified squats for a pregnant woman.

Here are some other common questions I get:

  1. Is it OK to do squats in first trimester?
  2. How many squats a day should a pregnant woman do?
  3. When should you stop jumping while pregnant?
  4. Are squats safe during pregnancy?

For answers to these and many more questions regarding squats, please read this more in-depth post I wrote.

Related: Squats when Pregnant >

23. Are Push-ups safe during pregnancy?

Yes, but as long as they are modified push-ups. I'll show you how to do these in my online program. Doing traditional full-body push-ups should be avoided especially if your tummy is hitting the ground.

24. How can I increase my stamina during pregnancy?

You can stay fit by working out. I have created PregActive FIT classes for those women who want to workout a bit harder while still staying safe. You can increase your stamina by walking, riding a stationary bike, swimming or joining in a FIT class designed for pregnant women.

25. What exercises are safe during first trimester?

While your belly may not be showing, you still need to respect the fact that you are pregnant. This includes avoiding the activities and exercises that I outlined above and only participate in safe exercises such as walking, prenatal yoga and Pilates, swimming or a prenatal class.

Related: First Trimester Exercise Guidelines to Keep You Safe

26. Second Trimester Exercise Questions

Second trimester exercises should focus on core stability and upper back and upper arms. Your second trimester includes the weeks from 14 - 26. It is during this second trimester that you really start to notice how your growing belly impacts on your daily activities. This is why it is important to only include functional second trimester pregnancy exercises that take into account your growing belly and body changes.

Your workouts should be helping you to build the strength and endurance you need in preparation for increasing weight gain. What's important here is that you pay attention to how your body is feeling.

Common questions include:

  1. What exercise can I do in 2nd trimester?
  2. Is it OK to start exercising in second trimester?
  3. Is walking good during 2nd trimester?
  4. What is considered 2nd trimester in pregnancy?
  5. Are squats safe in second trimester?

 Related: Functional Second Trimester Pregnancy Exercises

27. What exercises are safe during third trimester?
  1. Prenatal yoga
  2. Prenatal Pilates
  3. Swimming
  4. Walking
  5. Prenatal fitness classes
28. How much can a pregnant woman lift in the third trimester?

Generally, it's agreed that pregnant women can lift items that weigh 25 pounds or less without harm. I say without harm - but if you lift with poor technique you can still hurt your back.

29. Is it safe to swim while pregnant in the third trimester?

Yes, it is. Make sure you adhere to all guidelines for swimming when pregnant. This includes monitoring water temperature, swimming with a friend and be careful walking on the wet ground.

30. How cold is too cold to swim while pregnant?

The water you swim in should not be too hot or too cold. Pregnant women should swim in water that is between 84 - 86 deg F. If the water that is too cold it can cause the uterus to contract, and water that is too warm can cause overheating.

31. Is it OK to go to the gym when pregnant?

That's an interesting question right now as I write this article due to COVID-19 that is impacting on all of us. Many gyms around the world are closed. So from a safety stand point, you may want to avoid the gym right now. 

But apart from COVID-19 the gym is OK if you want to workout. I say OK because there are many machines, exercises and classes that you must avoid as they are not safe. So please only participate in a program that has been created by a prenatal exercise specialist.

Related: Pregnancy Gym Workouts >

32. Can I do strength training when pregnant?

In general, when weight training, you increase the weight as you become stronger. It's to keep challenging your muscles to increase your strength. Strength training in pregnancy requires some specific modifications.

WHY strength training is beneficial in pregnancy

1. Help to avoid aches and pains as your body grows.

2. Physically prepare your body for labour.

3. Prepare your body for life as a new mother. Lifting, carrying and pram-pushing!

Related: Can I lift Weights when Pregnant?

33. Is walking too much during pregnancy bad?

Like most things, too much is not ideal. So yes, you can walk too far and at a pace that is too fast. But there is no reason you can't get out and walk daily. In fact I recommended it. Just walk as a pace where you can still talk and avoid long distance walks in the hot weather.

34. Can I Use a treadmill when pregnant? Read this first!

Yes, exercising on a treadmill during pregnancy is generally safe as long as you adhere to the important cautions to keep you safe.

Ideally, you should try and get outside to walk so you get some fresh air. But often during extreme conditions during winter or summer you are better off working out at home and a treadmill can come in handy.

Related: Can I Use a Treadmill when Pregnant?

35. I didn't exercise before pregnancy - can I start now I'm pregnant?

Yes, exercising during pregnancy is recommended. If haven't exercised in a while then start out slowly. My Prenatal Mobility workouts have been specifically designed as beginner fitness classes.

36. Can I do stretching during pregnancy?

Stretching during pregnancy can provide some benefits with relaxation but it is important to know that your muscles will become more supple due to hormone changes. In the below related article, I have listed 10 of the best pregnancy stretches you can do at home.

Related: Best pregnancy stretches >

37. Planks while pregnant - Are they good or bad?

Many women continue to perform full planks while pregnant. I am not a big fan and here's why. But first, I show my clients how to do a modified side plank.

When performing planks during pregnancy, you run the risk of injuring your back due to the strain the baby's weight can put on your body. Not to mention, there is a lot of strain place upon your back even if you're not pregnant.

When pregnant, you will be experiencing a wide range of body changes. Some are just inconvenient, while some significantly impact on your health and daily functioning.

Let's not create additional unwanted issues by performing planks!

Related: Planks when Pregnant >

38. What exercise can you do now without anyone knowing?

Your pelvic floor exercises! Otherwise known as Kegels. In fact you can do Kegels anywhere including sitting in traffic, waiting in line, even at your desk. No-one will know you are doing them!

39. Can I still go scuba diving now I am pregnant?

That would be a definite 'no!' Always stay near the surface of the water. Diving puts your baby at risk for the "bends," harmful gas bubbles in the baby's blood vessels.

40. Will Exercising during pregnancy make the baby come early?

No, you don't need to worry. For healthy women exercise does not increase the chances of an early delivery or a too-small baby.

41. Can I do Bikram yoga when pregnant?

NO! Stay away from Bikram (hot yoga). A lot of studios can be over 90 degrees F and that may be too hot for your baby. A normal prenatal yoga class is the better option.

Related: Yoga when Pregnant >

42. How soon can I start exercising after my baby is born?

It's generally OK to start exercising a few days after a normal delivery. When I say exercise, I am referring to getting out of bed and walking and progressing from there.

Your more challenging workouts will need to wait until after your 6-week postnatal checkup with your obstetrician. Allow your body to rest, recover and heal during these first six weeks.

43. Why is staying hydrated so important during pregnancy?

When pregnant, you require more water because the extracellular fluid space increases and the developing pregnancy requires fluid. Also, pregnant women lose more water than non-pregnant women.

44. Exercising on back when pregnant - Is it dangerous?

Do you love sleeping on your back? What about exercising on your back when pregnant? Can you do it? I want to help clear up some of the conflicting information that may be causing you some concern. So, let's just state this: Try to avoid laying on your back while pregnant after 16 Weeks!

Related: Exercising on Back when Pregnant - Is it Dangerous?

Got More Questions?

Our online member-only forum is a great place to ask questions questions and get the answers you need. As always, please communicate everything you do when pregnant with your doctor.

Takeaway

There is a lot to know when you are pregnant. And this includes knowing what to do and what to avoid. This is why I have created my online program as it gives you peace of mind knowing that this is all taken care of for you. You just choose your preferred style of workout (yoga Pilates, fit, stretch) and I have taken care of the rets by only including the safest and best exercises.

Learn More About My Online Programs

From my pregnancy program, Core Rehab for Mamas program to my Stronger Mama Challenge; I have a program to help you be a healthy, fit and strong mama for life!

Check Out My Online Programs
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