Healthy Mama: Exercise guidelines during pregnancy

healthy mama logoBy Dr. Matthew Steed, Mercy family practice doctor and obstetrician (and father of 2)

I’m commonly asked what things are safe during pregnancy. Over the years, I’ve been asked some “odd” questions:

  • “My aunt has been checking my cervix and thinks I’m in labor. Do you mind checking me?”
  • “Is red wine good for my baby’s brain?”
  • “After the delivery will you be able to tell who the baby’s dad is? ”

But others are a bit more practical with questions like, “When is it too late to travel by plane?” “Is it okay if I walk around when I’m in labor,”or “Is it safe to exercise while I’m  pregnant?”

As you can imagine, some of the odd questions have fast, easy answers: “Your aunt needs a psychiatrist.” “Have you ever heard of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome?” and “Sorry, but genetic testing is your best option.”

Other questions require more of a conversation, particularly the one about exercise. Exercise or planned repetitive physical activity structured to improve and maintain physical fitness is safe during most pregnancies, but the type, frequency and amount depends on the individual. A pregnant women who does regular, vigorous aerobic activity can continue exercising during pregnancy, as long as her pregnancy is uncomplicated.

Women that are not highly active should aim for about 150 minutes of aerobic activity per week. However, very few of my patients have that much time to exercise and 90 minutes might be a more reasonable goal.

“DON’T”: High impact exercise (gymnastics, horseback riding, and skiing) as well as scuba diving, hiking at altitude, and contact sports should be avoided. Pregnant women should also avoid hot tubs and sauna because they shouldn’t increase their core body temperatures.

“DO”: Exercise like walking, swimming, water aerobics, stationary cycling , yoga, and low impact aerobics (prego aerobics) are good options. But it’s important to hydrate before, during and after exercise, wear loose fitting clothing and exercise in a cool environment.

Here’s some good news: You’ll need an additional 300 calories a day to get the proper nutrition if you’re exercising while you’re pregnant. And here’s even better news: Patients who exercise during pregnancy have less excessive weight gain during pregnancy and fewer of them experience an inability to lose weight at six months after delivery. Also, there’s no need to worry about exercise negatively affecting breastfeeding. It won’t. And pregnant patients who exercise usually have have better muscle tone, better energy levels, less back pain, and studies have even shown a reduction in postpartum depression.

But don’t go it alone. I strongly encourage the spouse to be involved in the exercise program because it gives the two of you time to talk about what’s going on in your day-to-day life, and it’s a great time to bond more as a couple. It helps for husbands, in particular, to see how much more effort it takes to move your body as your pregnancy progresses. Exercise is the best way I have found to demonstrate that process, and it gives him a better appreciation for the amazing work your body is doing during pregnancy.

Exercise during pregnancy is not for every patient, so please discuss ANY exercise plans with your OB provider. If you have any of the warning signs or conditions listed below, you should NOT exercise during the pregnancy.

  • Severe anemia
  • extreme morbid obesity
  • extreme underweight
  • fetal growth restriction
  • Gestational or chronic HTN
  • orthopedic limitations

If you have any of the conditions in the following list, you may be advised not to exercise so please talk to your doctor BEFORE you begin or continue any type of exercise: vaginal bleeding; dizziness; headache; chest pain; preterm labor; amniotic fluid leakage

I hope your pregnancy goes smoothly because, as I always say, healthy babies and happy moms make the world go around. 🙂

Dr. Steed’s number one passion is to care for the pregnancy and birthing needs of women. You may call him at the Mercy clinic at 479-338-5555 to begin your prenatal care and let him help you enjoy your pregnancy journey. His office is located in the Mercy Physician’s Plaza just off Interstate 540 in Rogers.

MERCY2 does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is for informational purposes only and isn’t a substitute for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor if you have questions about a medical condition. Don’t delay getting professional medical advice because of something you read online. This website doesn’t necessarily recommend or endorse any specific tests, doctors, products, procedures or opinions discussed on the site.