The benefits of exercising during pregnancy are well-known: Exercise helps reduce to swelling, backaches, constipation and bolsters energy, posture and strength. It also helps you sleep. But what about the risks? Here’s what you should know about exercising during pregnancy and the potential risks.
It’s important to choose exercises that will not inherently increase your risk of problems–swimming, walking and low-impact aerobic classes designed for pregnant women are a few. Stay away from activities that will compromise your balance or put extra strain on your joints and potentially put your baby at risk; downhill skiing, contact sports (such as basketball, soccer, hockey) and scuba diving should be avoided. Before running, cycling or playing tennis or racquetball, consult your health care provider.
Pregnancy floods your body with hormones that relax the ligaments that support your joints. In addition, your center of gravity changes as your baby grows and your weight and body shifts. These factors cause stress on the joints and muscles, as well as compromise your balance. Be aware when exercising while pregnant that your body may not respond exactly as you’d like. Be prepared for joint pain or an occasional loss of balance and adjust your exercise routine to suit your changing body.
If you are exercising while pregnant, it’s important to understand that exercising increases the work your body is doing, and it’s already doing a lot. Exercising to reap the health benefits and to prepare your body for labor and delivery should be your focus, not dieting or weight control. Be careful not to overdo it. If you can talk while you’re exercising, then it’s likely you’re working at an acceptable pace. If not, slow it down.
If you are exercising and experience any of the following symptoms, you should stop and call your health care provider: dizziness or faintness, increased shortness of breath, chest pain, uterine contractions, headache, muscle pain or weakness, or calf pain or tenderness. Fluid leaking from the vagina or decreased fetal movement are also reasons to stop exercising and contact your health care provider.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists advises women who have been diagnosed with certain conditions not to exercise. Among them are women who have experienced pre-term labor, have risk factors for pre-term labor or have had a premature rupture of membranes. Women who have had vaginal bleeding should not exercise during pregnancy. Certainly there are other conditions that would influence the safety of exercise during pregnancy; ask your health care provider if you are concerned and keep him abreast of your exercise routine.