If you exercised regularly before becoming pregnant, remaining active throughout pregnancy can help you maintain your strength and even relieve uncomfortable symptoms like bloating, backaches and constipation. But pushing your body too hard can put both you and your baby at risk, so take a modified approach to exercise until after your baby is born.
It's normal for your body temperature to increase when you're active, but avoid exercise that gets your body too hot during pregnancy. Overheating is especially dangerous in the first trimester, because it's a critical period for the development of a baby's major organs. You may become overheated more quickly during pregnancy, so exercise in a cool location, and drink plenty of water before, during and after your workout to stay hydrated.
A racing heart is another sign you're pushing yourself too hard during a workout. If you're out of breath, it's not just you that needs more oxygen; your baby may not be getting the oxygen she needs either. A good rule of thumb is to make sure you can always talk normally during exercise.
If you were already lifting weights before becoming pregnant, it's fine to continue as long as your have your doctor's permission. But heavy weights can put stress on your joints, which become looser during pregnancy thanks to elevated levels of the hormone relaxin. Limit yourself to lighter weights during pregnancy, and increase the number of repetitions you perform.
As your belly grows and your center of gravity shifts, you're more prone to falls, which can injure you and your baby. Avoid exercises designed to test your balance, like weight-lifting while standing on a Bosu ball or on one leg. And instead of jogging, hiking and walking on rough or uneven terrain, stick to flat surfaces until after pregnancy.
The most important thing to remember when exercising during pregnancy is that if it feels wrong, don't do it. Pregnancy isn't the time to push your body beyond its comfort zone, so focus instead on simply staying active. Finally, if you experience any unusual symptoms such as vaginal bleeding, dizziness, shortness of breath, headache, chest pain, calf pain or swelling, muscle weakness, uterine contractions, decreased fetal movement or fluid leaking from the vagina, stop exercising and call your doctor.
- American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: Exercise During Pregnancy
- Patient Education and Counseling: Beliefs About Exercise and Physical Activity Among Pregnant Women
- American Pregnancy Association: Exercise Guidelines During Pregnancy
- Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport: Physical Activity and Pregnancy -- Past and Present Evidence and Future Recommendations