Exercises to Avoid When Pregnant

For most women, there’s nothing wrong with exercising during pregnancy. Exercise can provide numerous physical and emotional benefits to pregnant women, including improved mood, fewer aches and pains and heightened energy. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists reports that exercise may even lower the risk of developing gestational diabetes. Certain exercises, however, should be avoided during pregnancy. Be sure to discuss with your doctor the forms of exercise that are best for you.

Pregnant woman on stretching mat (Image: Steve Hix/Fuse/Fuse/Getty Images)

Exercises with Increased Risk of Falling

Sports such as horseback riding, downhill skiing, rock climbing, and in-line and ice skating are all considered off-limits for all pregnant women, regardless of level of expertise, according to the American Pregnancy Association. Racquet sports, such as tennis and badminton, are also considered high-risk activities from the late second trimester onward. These sports involve running with quick changes of direction, which during the awkward, later stages of pregnancy put you at risk of falling and injuring yourself or your baby.

Jumping Exercises

When pregnant, avoid exercises that involve jumping or bouncing. It’s not the movement that is dangerous – the baby is well-padded in your uterus – but the stress it places on your ligaments and joints. During pregnancy, the body releases a hormone called “relaxin” that causes your ligaments to loosen. Loose ligaments facilitate delivery, particularly in the pelvic area. In their softened state, however, they become more prone to injury. Exercises involving jumping, such as high-impact aerobics and jumping jacks, increase the risk of you seriously, and potentially permanently, harming your ligaments or joints.

Contact Sports

Pregnant women should steer clear of contact sports such as hockey, basketball, football, or rugby, as they increase the chance of being hit in the abdomen. Injuries in the stomach area -- even minor ones -- can have serious effects on a pregnancy. Even if you are highly proficient at these activities, wait until after the baby is born to play.

Bikram Yoga

While yoga practice is generally safe and recommended for pregnant women, Bikram yoga must be avoided. Bikram yoga poses are practiced in a heated room, sometimes in excess of 100 degrees, and pregnant women are at risk of overheating. The American Pregnancy Association reports that a pregnant woman's core temperature should not rise above 102.2 degrees, as some studies have shown that fetuses exposed to such heat have a higher risk of birth defects. If you’re a pregnant yoga-lover, find a prenatal yoga program that will help keep you in shape without the additional risk of heat.

Supine Exercises

Pregnant women should avoid supine exercises, which are performed lying on your back, after the first trimester. According to IDEA Health and Fitness Association, these exercises can reduce blood flow to the baby, possibly resulting in oxygen deprivation. Examples of supine exercises include bicycle crunches and pelvic tilts.

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