Many pregnant woman are afraid of engaging in physical activity due to the health and well-being of their child. Both the American Pregnancy Association and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology state that daily exercise should be a part of pregnancy, and exercise itself is not reported as a cause of miscarriage. There are workout intensity parameters to follow as you progress through pregnancy, but during early pregnancy your body is not severely altered by the changes occurring. Most miscarriages occur within the first 13 weeks of pregnancy, and this is the time your body can still be most physically active. Consult your doctor before engaging in physical activity while pregnant.
Contraindications to Exercising While Pregnant
Women who are pregnant should be aware of symptoms and side effects that are signs to cease physical activity to limit fears of "what ifs?" and "what does this mean?" during exercise. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, to maintain safety for you and your child, do not continue intense exercise if you have vaginal bleeding, severe chest pain, calf swelling, decreased fetal movement and amniotic fluid leakage. Refrain from exercise if you have orthopedic limitations, are a heavy smoker, extremely underweight, morbidly obese, have heart disease, have lung disease, are at risk for premature labor or have pregnancy-induced hypertension.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, when you are still in your first trimester, there are certain exercises and positions you can still maintain. While in your first trimester, you can still perform exercises while lying on your back without affecting your body's blood pressure or blood flow. This will allow time for many additional core exercises to help strengthen your abdomen and birthing muscles. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology reports that the first 24 weeks are generally more practical for women engaging in exercise, so higher intensities of exercise can be achieved. Listen to your body, and refrain from overexerting yourself just as you would when you were not pregnant. High exercise intensity is more of a concern toward developing gestational hypertension. Be able to maintain a conversation while exercising, and avoid heavy lifting or supporting weight over your head. Also, refrain from the Valsalva maneuver, in which you hold your breath while performing resistance exercises.
Exercise Parameters During First Trimester
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology has general guidelines to follow in terms of safe exercise throughout pregnancy. Physically fit women can exercise up until labor, but women who have not exercised in a considerable amount of time should start at lower and more controlled intensity. When exercising in your first trimester, attempt to be active for at least 30 minutes a day, and work up to this time if you cannot achieve it immediately. The American College of Sports Medicine reports that pregnant woman should engage in exercise three -- and preferably all -- days of the week, and heart rate range between 125 and 150 beat per minute during exercise is optimal. Pregnant women should incorporate large muscle group exercises -- such as cycling, running or free weight lifting -- and when partaking in resistance training, they should perform 12 to 15 reps per exercise of a light to moderate weight.
Benefits of Exercise While Pregnant
Exercising while pregnant will help you and your baby. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology reports that exercise helps strengthen your posture and birthing muscles, improves energy levels, balances hormones to improve your mood, helps reduce backaches, reduces swelling, promotes better sleeping and helps prevent or treat gestational diabetes. It also increases overall muscular tone, strength and endurance that will help you support the additional weight you will be carrying, and decrease the difficulty in moving that may eventually come.
- "ACSM's Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription, 8th edition."; American College of Sports Medicine; 2009
- American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology: Miscarriage
- Hospital for Special Surgeries: Exercise During Pregnancy
- American Pregnancy Association: Miscarriage
- American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology: Pregnancy and Exercise