Women's Healthcare Topics

Fitness for Pregnant Women

Reviewed by James Brann, M.D.

Strength Training During Pregnancy

Strength training can be especially helpful for pregnant women. Women who are pregnant must strength train with caution however.

Some doctors recommend you avoid lifting more than 20 pounds when exercising. If you routinely lifted heavier weights before becoming pregnant you may be able to life more comfortably. Keep in mind however that what was comfortable before pregnancy may not be comfortable after.

During the later half of pregnancy, your body releases a compound called relaxin. As the name implies, relaxin helps relax the ligaments in the pubic area and helps the cervix soften and enlarge in preparation for delivery.

This can increase your chances for injury if you lift too heavily.

After your third month of pregnancy, you should not perform any exercises that requires you to lie flat on your back, as this can also decrease blood flow to your uterus. If you are just starting out, here are some great exercises to try to help maintain your fitness during pregnancy:

  • Prenatal Yoga – Either a class or video.

  • Pilates

  • Stationary Biking – you should avoid a traditional bike as you risk falling over and injuring your belly.

  • Swimming

  • Walking or light jogging

Don’t forget… before starting any exercise or fitness program it is vital you talk with your doctor to assess your health risks. Only begin a fitness program if it is safe for you and your baby! And remember, the focus should be on feeling good, not losing weight!

Pregnant Women are Encouraged to Exercise

Pregnant women are often encouraged to exercise regularly during pregnancy. If you regularly engage in a fitness program before becomin g pregnant, it is likely exercise during pregnancy won’t be a problem for you. However, many women express an interest in starting an exercise program for the first time just after becoming pregnant. If you fall into this category, there are several steps you can take to ensure you get the most out of your fitness routine while exercising safely.

Step 1: Setting Your Goals

Your fitness goals during pregnancy should not include dieting or losing weight. During pregnancy, you can use exercise to feel better, to help with insomnia and to help prepare your body for labor and delivery. That said, you should create a list of goals for yourself before engaging in any fitness program during pregnancy.

Of course the best time to begin an exercise routine is before conception. However, don’t worry if you don’t fall into this category. You can still set reasonable goals for yourself. Examples of reasonable fitness goals include:

  • Exercise at least every other day for 20 minutes.
  • Take part in prenatal yoga class two days per week.
  • Maintain moderate weight gain of 25-35 pounds.
Learn about strength training for pregnant women.

Remember, before beginning any exercise program you should consult your doctor. Some women are at risk for adverse health outcomes if they exercise during pregnancy. If you fall into this category, your doctor may recommend some alternatives to you, including a regular stretching program to help you stay in shape during your pregnancy.

Step 2: Stretching and Warm Up

Before you begin working out, whether pregnant or not, it is important that you warm your body up. This will prevent injury and help get the blood flowing in your body. A light warm up may consist of 5-10 minutes of light cardio or stretching.

Some women should not exercise during pregnancy. These include women with:

  • Heart or cardiovascular disease
  • Preeclampsia
  • Hypertension
  • Lung disease or asthma complicated by exercise
  • Placental difficulties
  • History of miscarriage

Remember, if at any time during exercise you feel dizzy, start bleeding or having cramps, you should stop working out and rest immediately.

Step 3: Work Out Moderately

When first starting out, you’ll need to take things slow. You don’t want to go all-out and then find yourself exhausted, aching and frustrated after just one day. In fact, you should feel invigorated, not tired, immediately after working out. If you feel tired chances are you’ve done too much and should take it easy the next day or so. Good exercises to begin with include walking, biking and swimming. Be sure while exercising you keep your heart rate at 140 beats per minute or below.

You should also be sure to drink lots of water before, during and after exercise. Doing so will keep you hydrated and help prevent soreness and cramping during and after your work out. Throughout your pregnancy you should also perform kegel exercises. Kegel exercises help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. To perform these exercises, tighten the walls inside your vagina like you would if you were trying to hold your urine. Hold for 10-15 seconds then release. You can perform this exercise multiple times every day to help prepare for the pushing phase of delivery.

Step 4: Cooling Down

It is important that you cool down after any exercise routine. This will help bring your hear rate back to normal and reduce your blood pressure. You can cool down by decreasing your pace if walking or biking, or by performing some simple stretches after working out. You can even walk and stretch at the same time. Be sure after you finish your work out you take your time getting up or moving, as rapid changes in blood pressure may cause you to feel dizzy.


Doctor's Corner

Pregnancy Week by Week - Women's Healthcare Topics