Even if you're a confirmed couch potato, getting a little exercise during pregnancy can help you maintain a healthy weight and prepare for the physical challenges of giving birth. Many exercises, like swimming and walking, are safe even for fitness newbies. But whether you're a longtime fitness fanatic or a new exerciser, there are some exercises that can be dangerous when you're pregnant.
All pregnant women should avoid downhill skiing, contact sports -- like soccer, football and basketball -- scuba diving and activities with a high risk for falling or injury, like gymnastics, horseback riding or water skiing, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Most pregnant women should avoid racquet sports, including tennis, badminton and racquetball. In general, pregnant women should avoid any strenuous physical activity they aren't in the habit of doing.
There are a few types of exercise that are considered unsafe for expectant moms, according to KidsHealth.org, an online parenting and health information resource maintained by the Nemours Foundation. After your first trimester, you should avoid any type of exercise that requires you to lie flat on your back, including some yoga and Pilates poses. You should avoid exercise that requires you to bounce or jump, exercises that involve sudden changes of movement and exercises or contact sports that pose a risk for abdominal injury. You may also want to skip exercises that require balancing after your second trimester.
Some exercises are dangerous for pregnant women because of the physical changes of pregnancy. As the ligaments that support your joints loosen up to allow your body to give birth, it's easier for you to become injured through sudden or abrupt movements. As your belly grows, your center of gravity shifts, making it harder for you to maintain your balance and increasing your risk for falls and accidents. Increased blood flow means you may tire more quickly, making intense exercises potentially problematic.
Some exercises are bad during pregnancy only if you're new to the sport. For instance, if you've never been a runner, your obstetrician will probably recommend that you stick to walking while you're pregnant. But if you were a regular runner before you got pregnant, you can probably keep it up as long as you have your doctor's approval, explains the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Whatever exercise you are doing, watch out for warning signs like vaginal bleeding, severe cramping, shortness of breath, dizziness or light-headedness, chest pain, muscle weakness, swelling or pain in your calves, decreased fetal movement or vaginal leakage. If you experience these symptoms while pregnant, the American College of Gynecologists recommends that you call your health-care provider and seek medical attention immediately.