Consequences of a Lack of Exercise During Pregnancy

Pregnant woman is standing on the green lawn.
A pregnant woman is enjoying a walk in the park. (Image: SVPhilon/iStock/Getty Images)

There are many benefits to regular exercise, including maintaining a healthy weight and warding off dangerous conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes. During pregnancy, exercise is even more important, since it helps keep both you and your baby healthy. A lack of exercise can be linked to many pregnancy-related problems for both you and your baby.

Time Frame

Ideally, you should be at a healthy weight and in good shape before you get pregnant. However, even if you have not exercised before getting pregnant, you should start as soon as possible. You will just need to start slowly, and follow the advice of your doctor. Start by exercising two to three times a week, and build up to four or more times per week once you are ready.

Significance

A lack of exercise during pregnancy puts you at risk for complications, such as increased pulse rate and blood pressure, and puts you at an additional risk for developing gestational diabetes. These all can affect not only your health, but also the health of your unborn child. A lack of exercise during pregnancy also makes it more likely you will gain too much weight during these nine months, making it harder to return to a healthy weight once the baby is born. You may also experience more heartburn and digestion problems.

Limitations

Although you should not avoid exercise completely during pregnancy, there are certain activities you should stay away from. Unless your doctor tells you otherwise, stay away from activities that involve bouncing, jumping or sudden changes of direction. For this reason, horseback riding, contact sports and downhill skiing are not considered safe. Also avoid any exercise that requires you to lay on your back after your first trimester.

Misconceptions

Some women avoid exercise during pregnancy because they fear it will cause a miscarriage. According to the American Pregnancy Association, this is not true. It is also not true that you should not lift weights, or anything heavy. Not only is it safe, but lifting weights may help prepare your body for labor and delivery. Abdominal exercises are also safe, though you should avoid lying flat on your back after the first trimester. You also do not need to worry about exercise causing pre-term labor. Your body will not go into labor until you -- and the baby -- are ready. The old guideline that pregnant women should keep their heart rate under 140 beats per minute has also been disproved -- the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists eliminated that guideline in the 1990s and now suggests that pregnant women should exercise at a comfortable pace.

Warning

Stop exercising and contact your doctor if you experience vaginal bleeding, unusual pain, are dizzy, experiencing premature contractions or if you are leaking any kind of fluid. Consult with your doctor or midwife before beginning any exercise program, since some medical conditions can cause exercise to do more harm than good. Your doctor may also wish to place restrictions on the types or amount of exercise that you do.

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