Along with eating a nutritious diet and getting plenty of rest, staying active during pregnancy are important steps toward having a healthy baby. With all the changes in your body, you might wonder what exercises and activities are safe while you’re pregnant and if there are any you should avoid.
“The good news is that most healthy women having a normal pregnancy can continue to be physically active,” says Kirstin Lee, MD, an OB-GYN at Scripps Clinic La Jolla. “In fact, exercising during pregnancy is good for you and may help reduce some of the discomforts of pregnancy.”
However, adds Dr. Lee, exercise may not be a good idea for women who have high-risk pregnancies, and some women will need to modify their activities to reduce fatigue and avoid injury.
Before you do any exercises or activities while pregnant, consider the following:
Let your doctor know which activities you regularly do and ask if you can continue them. Keep an open dialogue throughout your pregnancy and talk openly about your concerns. If you reach a point in your pregnancy where any of your activities or exercises are dangerous for your or your baby, you doctor will let you know.
If you were active before you were pregnant, in most cases, you can continue to stay active until it becomes uncomfortable to do so. However, if you were never a runner, now is not the time to hit the track.
Stick with what you’ve been doing and talk to your doctor before trying any new exercises during your pregnancy, particularly strenuous exercises or weight-bearing activities.
There are many pregnancy exercise classes and apps that you can use as a guide; often, these show modified activities to make working out comfortable and reduce the stress on your joints and back.
When you’re pregnant, your joints and ligaments will loosen and your center of gravity will be shifted, which can increase your risk for injury.
Ask your doctor what’s safe to lift (for example, can you can continue to pick up your other children?). Your weight-lifting limits will change throughout your pregnancy, so be sure to talk to your OB-GYN whenever you have questions.
“Whatever you do, the most important thing to remember is to listen to your body,” Dr. Lee says. “Your heart rate naturally increases when you’re pregnant—even at rest—which can make what used to be an easy workout much harder.”
Whether you want to go for a walk, practice yoga or go swimming, your body will tell you if you are doing too much. Take sufficient time to warm up and cool down, drink plenty of water and always stop if you get tired, lightheaded or dizzy. Never work out to the point of exhaustion, and always call your doctor if you have a concern.
One of the activities you might be concerned about is sex. In most cases, having sex while pregnant is safe if you’re having a normal pregnancy; the act of having sex during pregnancy will not harm your baby.
However, in some cases there are precautions you should take. Talk to your doctor about sex and pregnancy and abstain if:
- You have a high-risk pregnancy
- You or your partner have a sexually transmitted infection
- You are carrying multiple babies
- You have vaginal bleeding
- You have preterm labor
- You have placenta previa
If you have any concerns or questions, talk with your doctor.