Can Exercising While Pregnant Make Nausea Worse?

Nausea during pregnancy, sometimes termed "morning sickness," can happen any time during the day and can make expectant women feel very reluctant to exercise. When you feel nauseous, you generally don't want to exert yourself; it often feels better to rest. Even after the nausea passes, you might feel fatigued and, again, indisposed to work out. Although morning sickness makes exercising during pregnancy more difficult, exercise provides enough significant benefits that you should do it anyway -- with extra precautions to avoid upsetting your stomach.

A pregnant woman is practicing yoga. (Image: ferlistockphoto/iStock/Getty Images)

Finding a Balance

Although exercise does not cause morning sickness in general, it can worsen nausea if you already feel sick or if you experience nausea often. While your body fights the urge to vomit, you should rest and avoid overexertion.

Exercise, if not conducted carefully, can cause several factors that could contribute to your nausea -- such as dizziness, becoming overheated, dehydration and shortness of breath. Mild exercise, in the context of well-timed hydration and eating, usually doesn't exacerbate morning sickness, and it can even relieve it by distracting you and increasing your overall health.

Lessen the Impact

To exercise without worsening your nausea, choose a low-intensity workout, such as walking, prenatal yoga or swimming. In hot climates, exercise in the morning or indoors, and stop if you feel overheated. Don't exercise so strenuously that you lose your breath, advises the American Pregnancy Association, and take a break whenever you need one.

The Palo Alto Medical Foundation recommends eating half an hour before you exercise; this gives your body energy to sustain your efforts, and it prevents your blood sugar from dipping too low, which can increase nausea.

Drink water before, during and after exercise. Exercise can dehydrate your body, as can the vomiting that sometimes accompanies morning sickness, and dehydration can both exacerbate your sickness and harm your baby. However, avoid drinking so much before or during your workout that the amount of liquid in your stomach makes you feel ill. Drink even if you don't feel thirsty, but stop drinking if it starts to aggravate your nausea.

Out with the Old

In the past, cultural norms expected pregnant women to rest and avoid energetic activity. Modern medicine, however, has found that expectant mothers benefit from regular exercise; it strengthens their bodies, helping them physically cope with the many demands of gestation and labor. MedlinePlus suggests exercising for half an hour per day.

When you struggle with morning sickness, you might feel tempted to stay in bed and avoid any exertion. Additionally, nausea and vomiting can sap your strength, leaving you deeply fatigued. The Palo Alto Medical Foundation, however, strongly recommends exercising during the first trimester -- cautiously and moderately -- even if you have morning sickness. Exercise boosts your energy and overall health.

If there's a time of day when you feel less sick, exercise then; even 10 minutes can make a difference. A walk outdoors, in the fresh air, can invigorate your body and even alleviate your nausea.

Exercise Common Sense

Do your best to prevent exercise-induced nausea, but if your nausea increases while you exercise, then stop. Overexerting your body to the point of nausea -- which you can reach more easily if you're vulnerable to morning sickness -- doesn't benefit your body or your baby. Additionally, the distraction of nausea makes it harder to pay attention and exercise carefully, which could increase your risk of falling and harming the fetus. To help avoid this, KidsHealth from Nemours recommends skipping your exercise on days when you feel particularly ill.

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