• ereul93

Can I Exercise During My Pregnancy?

Hi friends! Have you ever wondered if it was safe to be active and exercise during pregnancy? For decades, pregnancy has been treated as a disability, with individuals being encouraged to rest. However, for many staying active can have many benefits to both the mother and the baby.


The short answer to “Can I exercise while pregnant?” is probably. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends “in the absence of obstetric or medical contraindications, physical activity in pregnancy is safe.”

In most cases, exercise is encouraged during pregnancy and even beneficial, but there are some rare circumstances or conditions in which exercise may be harmful. It is extremely important to discuss this with your birth professional (e.g. obstetrician or midwife) to see if it is safe for your individual pregnancy. (It’s a good idea to talk with your physician before starting any exercise program—pregnant or not.)

When exercise is recommended, there are so many benefits! Research has shown exercise in pregnancy can lower your risk for:

  • Excessive pregnancy weight gain

  • Gestational diabetes

  • Gestational hypertensive disorders (e.g., preeclampsia and high blood pressure)

  • Preterm birth

  • Cesarean birth

  • Low birth weight

  • Perineal tearing

Individuals who report higher overall physical fitness during pregnancy even report less pain (like lumbar and sciatic pain).

The following types of exercise since they have been studied in pregnancy and have been found to be safe and beneficial:

  • Walking

  • Stationary cycling

  • Aerobic exercises

  • Dancing

  • Resistance exercises (using weights, elastic bands)

  • Stretching exercises

  • Water therapy/water aerobics


Exercise that involves contact activities with high risk of abdominal trauma are discouraged.

ACOG recommends individuals get 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity aerobic activity during pregnancy and the postpartum period.

For most women, exercising while pregnant is safe, but it does temporarily increase your blood pressure while exercising. If high blood pressure is poorly controlled, aerobic exercise is not recommended because it can cause progression to preeclampsia. Watch this video from The Preeclampsia Foundation about taking your blood pressure at home.


It is important to avoid holding your breath while exercising. This can avoid changes in blood pressure and avoid excessive pressure on your pelvic floor muscles! Holding your breath while performing strenuous activities can make you more likely to develop conditions like diastasis recti and pelvic organ prolapse. You can count sets and repetitions out loud to prevent breath holding.

While you are exercising, remember that leaking pee during exercise (especially while running or jumping) is a sign that your pelvic floor muscles are not working properly and is never normal—even if it is common! If this happens to you, see a pelvic floor physical therapist.


As you exercise, be sure to watch out for these nine warning signs as they could be something serious. If you experience any of these signs, contact your provider.


If you are looking for help with starting an exercise program during pregnancy, a physical therapist or a personal trainer can be a great resource. Be sure to ask what education they have in working with pregnant women before choosing someone to work with.

When you are ready to return to exercise postpartum, check out our course with Melissa Dessaulles, PT on Return to Exercise After Baby.


Here are some great resources to help you throughout your pregnancy:

  • Ask your healthcare provider for a referral to a pelvic therapist to help you exercise safely and to prevent any pelvic floor symptoms.

  • Find a pelvic therapist on your own at myPFM.com. We have links to 4 free searchable databases under Find a PT.

  • Watch our YouTube playlist on Pregnancy and Your Pelvic Floor

  • Learn more about the pelvic floor muscles with our book: My Pelvic Floor Muscles The Basics

  • Sign up for our email newsletter!

  • Visit our Amazon store for pregnancy and postpartum products


For providers, check our online courses to help your pregnant and postpartum clients. Consider joining our Ambassador Program and most of our courses are included with your membership!

Written by Emily Reul, PT, DPT

References

1. Irion JM. Medical management and physical therapy management of high-risk pregnancy. APTA Section on women’s health.

2. The ACOG. Practice Bulletin. Clinical management guidelines for obstetricians-gynecologists: gestational hypertension and preeclampsia. Obstet Gynecol. 2019;133(1):e1-e25.

3. The ACOG. Practice Bulletin. Physical activity and exercise during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Obstet Gynecol. 2020;135(4):e178-e188.

37 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All