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Exercise during pregnancy

Exercise holds many benefits for pregnant women. But it's important to talk to your doctor before exercising. And you may need to take a few precautions.

When you're pregnant, chances are you'll feel like relaxing and putting your feet up.

And yes, rest is good. After all, your body is working overtime these days. It's no easy feat to nourish the little one inside you.

But remember, while rest can be refreshing, so can exercise. In fact, regular physical activity can be a key part of a healthy pregnancy, notes the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

How can exercise help?

Being active while pregnant can improve your health in several ways, notes the college and the March of Dimes. It can:

  • Reduce backaches, constipation, bloating and swelling.
  • Boost energy.
  • Improve your mood.
  • Help you sleep better.
  • Promote muscle tone, strength and endurance.
  • Lower the risk of health problems such as high blood pressure.
  • Help build stamina for labor and delivery.
  • Help you recover after the birth.
  • Help you get back to a healthy weight after delivery.
  • Help keep the baby blues at bay.

Is it safe?

In general, it's probably fine to exercise while pregnant. But that's only if you have no serious medical problems and no complications, says the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP).

To be sure, you should talk with your doctor first.

Which type is best?

Some of the safest types of exercise include low-impact activities. They don't involve a lot of bouncing. And they avoid extreme muscle stretching or deep joint bending.

Brisk walking is one good choice. You'll get aerobic benefits. And you won't need special equipment (other than a good pair of shoes).

Swimming is also a great choice during pregnancy. The water supports the weight of your growing body. At the same time, it provides resistance that helps bring up your heart rate.

Whatever exercise you do, be sure to start each session with a warm-up period of 5 to 10 minutes. And drink plenty of fluids, even if you don't feel thirsty, says the AAFP.

What should I be careful about?

Avoid activities that increase the risk of falls or injury, such as contact sports. Also steer clear of:

  • Jumping.
  • Jarring motions.
  • Quick changes in direction.

Remember, even mild injuries to the abdominal area can be serious during pregnancy.

Especially after the third month, avoid exercises that require you to lie on your back. The weight of the baby can interfere with blood circulation.

Finally, as you exercise, pay close attention to your body. Don't exercise to the point that you feel exhausted.

Rather, start slowly. And build your level of fitness gradually. You might, for instance, begin by exercising 5 minutes a day. Then add 5 minutes each week until you can stay active for 30 minutes a day.

Warning signs

You should call your doctor right away if you have any of these symptoms:

  • Blood or fluid coming from the vagina.
  • Difficulty breathing before exercise.
  • Dizziness.
  • Dim or blurry vision.
  • Headache that is severe or won't go away.
  • Chest pain.
  • Muscle weakness.
  • Sudden or severe abdominal or vaginal pain.
  • Pain or swelling in the lower legs.
  • The baby isn't moving as much as usual.

Also alert your doctor if you have any signs of early labor (labor that starts before your 37th week of pregnancy). These include:

  • Contractions every 10 minutes or more often.
  • Low, dull backache.
  • Abdominal cramps.
  • Pelvic pressure (feeling like your baby is pushing down).

Keep it going

Remember that exercise offers benefits after your baby's born too.

Ask your doctor when you can start exercising again. Pregnancy and childbirth take a toll on your body. It may be a while before you regain your strength. So care for yourself. And give your body time to recover.

Reviewed 10/20/2023

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