Target Heart Rate in Pregnancy - The Facts You Need!

prenatal exercise
Target Heart Rate in Pregnancy

Target Heart Rate in Pregnancy

So you know you need to exercise when pregnant. But you are unsure when it comes to the safe target heart rate in pregnancy. So let's give you the answer on exercise and heart rates when pregnant based on what the scientific research says. Not what the trainer down your local gym says.

First, if you did not exercise regularly before you became pregnant, it is a good idea to chat to your healthcare provider before jumping into any prenatal fitness program.

You may have individual conditions that may affect if, or how, you workout. Certain symptoms may cause your doctor to advise you not to exercise.

This includes:
  1. High blood pressure
  2. Pre-existing heart
  3. Pre-existing lung disease
  4. Vaginal bleeding
  5. Cervical problems
  6. High risk for preterm birth

Target Heart Rate in Pregnancy

You are not alone in wanting to know more about target heart rates when pregnant. Anything that can have an impact on your growing baby's health is of concern.

Here are the most common questions I get about this topic. And there is one answer to all these questions that you will find below. Have you asked:

1. What is the truth about safe heart rates while pregnant?

2. What is a safe heart rate during pregnancy?

3. Should I limit my heart rate during pregnancy?

4. What's a safe max heart rate during pregnancy?

5. How hard should you exercise while pregnant?

First, I want to provide just a brief background on target heart rates to help you understand it's importance during exercise.

Let's get straight to it.

Target Heart Rate in Pregnancy ACOG

Experts now say that instead of focusing on the number on a heart rate monitor, know the signs you should look for in your own body. ACOG recommends that pregnant women get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity every week and that you exercise while still being able to talk normally. Never exercises to exhaustion where you can't breathe.

What Is a Target Heart Rate?

Your heart rate is the speed at which your heart beats. Your heart will beat slower when you are resting and faster when you exercise. As a result, you can use your heart rate to measure the intensity of your exercise.

By monitoring your heart rate and comparing it to your target range, you can determine whether you are exercising too hard or not hard enough.

How Do I Measure My Heart Rate when Pregnant?

If you have a heart rate monitor, or a smart watch, you can use this device. If not, you can measure your own heart rate by taking your pulse.

Step 1: To do so, place your index and middle fingers on the wrist of your other hand, just below your thumb. You should be able to feel a pulse.

Step 2: Count the heartbeats for 15 seconds and multiply this number by four. The number you count is your heart rate, in beats per minute.

You gain access to your THR guide from the American Heart Association >

Does My Target Heart Rate Change During Pregnancy?

Many trainers still recommend that a pregnant woman's heart rate should not exceed 140 beats per minute. The precise target rate can vary for each individual according to their stage of pregnancy which is why there is still some confusion on this topic.

The main guide I like to go by is that you should always avoid over-exertion. And this is where the talk test comes into play.

Heart Rate During Pregnancy Recommendations by ACOG

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists suggest a pregnant woman should use her Rate of Perceived Exertion or the Talk Test.

ACOG states that a pregnant woman’s heart rate fluctuates throughout gestation, therefore making it difficult for you to determine from a number on a heart rate monitor just how hard your body is actually working.

Because of this, they recommend you use the Rate of Perceived Exertion and the Talk Test as it can be more effective.

Chart for Rate of Perceived Exertion

What is the Talk Test?

As long as you can carry on a conversation while exercising you are likely not over-exerting yourself.

ACOG's History on Target Heart Rate for Pregnancy

Like many things, recommendations and advice will change based on what current research is available.

In 1985, ACOG conducted a study that resulted in their recommendation of 140 beats per minute as the maximum heart rate for a pregnant woman who is exercising. Because of this study, many trainers still use this 140 bpm as a guide.

Bu then in 1996, the ACOG rescinded this guideline.

Is there Any More Current Research?

Yes! In April 2020 ACOG determined that perceived exertion is a more effective way to monitor intensity than heart rate monitors.

Are There Limitations on Exercise During Pregnancy?

In the past, women were cautioned against exercising when pregnant. Then they were cautioned about doing aerobic exercise during pregnancy. This is no longer true as exercise is highly recommended.

I have included PregActive cardio pregnancy workouts into every week of my online prenatal fitness program for those who are looking for a more advanced workout. If you choose this workout, then you will need to apply the talk test.

Most women should continue exercising throughout their pregnancy as long as they adhere to the guidelines for exercising during pregnancy.

There are some sports, activities and exercises that you must avoid. You can read more about those here: Exercises to avoid when pregnant >

Key Takeaway

The latest guidelines from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists suggest a pregnant woman should use her Rate of Perceived Exertion or the Talk Test. There is no set THR for pregnant women because they want you to use the talk test.

Try PregActive for FREE >