For most pregnant women, exercise is not only safe, but it is also encouraged. Exercise can help you feel better mentally and physically, but in some situations, exercise may put your unborn baby’s life at risk. Exercise, per se, does not kill the unborn child, but the effects of exercise -- such as restricted oxygen to the baby -- can terminate a pregnancy. Only your doctor can determine what’s best for you and your baby.
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Regular exercise can help combat the many discomforts of pregnancy. Exercise improves your circulation, which in turn helps prevent hemorrhoids, constipation, ankle swelling, leg cramps and varicose veins. Exercise can give you more energy during the day and help you sleep better at night. Staying fit can strengthen your back, decreasing the back pain from the extra pregnancy weight. While you don’t want to lose weight during pregnancy, you can use exercise to limit the amount of fat weight you gain. Some evidence suggests that physically fit women have shorter and safer labors.
Overdoing it endangers your baby’s health. If your body temperature rises above 101 degrees Fahrenheit, your baby may be at risk for birth defects, especially in the first trimester. If you lose your balance, you could fall and harm your baby. Vigorous-activity exercises may restrict oxygen flow to your baby. Avoid any contact sport that may cause a forceful impact to your stomach. You should also avoid spending too much time lying on your back after week 20 in your pregnancy.
During pregnancy, any moderate-intensity exercise that makes you breathe harder but still allows you to carry on a conversation, is best. Swimming gives you a safe cardiovascular workout without putting stress on your bones and joints. Taking walks and practicing yoga can relax you and provide you with low-impact exercises. If you engaged in bicycling, stepping, dancing, aerobics or jogging in your pre-pregnancy life, you can likely safely continue; however, your risk of falling increases as your pregnancy progresses and your center-of-balance shifts.
Regardless of how healthy and physically fit you may be, you should talk to your doctor before beginning any type of exercise during pregnancy. Begin a new exercise program slowly, and know your limits, and warnings signs of distress. You should stop exercising if you feel pain, short of breath, dizzy, overheated, or if you experience heart palpitations. If you have a high-risk pregnancy or at risk of pre-term labor, your doctor should closely monitor any exercise program. Additionally, if you have certain medication conditions, including diabetes, high blood pressure, vaginal bleeding or early contractions, your doctor may advise you to limit your physical activity.