Exercise is generally safe during your entire pregnancy. However, do not start exercising until your doctor gives you permission after your first prenatal appointment. If you haven’t scheduled a prenatal appointment, call your doctor as soon as possible so your pregnancy can be confirmed and your doctor can discuss any exercise limitation you have.
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You and your baby can usually benefit from physical activity throughout pregnancy, and exercise can provide relief for several undesirable pregnancy symptoms. Many women feel exhausted during the first trimester of pregnancy due to elevated progesterone concentrations, but your feelings of extreme fatigue will probably not start for a couple weeks. Other common symptoms that you may experience in the first trimester are backaches, constipation, anxiety, mood swings and bloating. Exercise accelerates the speed at which food moves through the intestines, which provides relief from constipation and bloating. Exercise improves your mood by releasing endorphins, which stabilizes mood swings and reduces pregnancy anxieties. Exercise also helps you sleep better. Labor and delivery are easier if you exercise throughout your pregnancy because your muscles are stronger and your endurance is ready for a lengthy pushing session.
If you exercised before pregnancy, you can usually continue your exercise routine with some modifications. Remove exercises that include sudden direction changes, jarring, bouncing and leaping; your joints are relaxed during pregnancy and more prone to injuries. You can still do exercises that require you to lie flat on your back at four weeks into your pregnancy, but you must discontinue these exercises after your first trimester. You can lift weights as long as you’re not lifting at your maximum levels. If exercise is new to your routine, start gradually. Exercise for 10 minutes per day and add an additional 10 minutes at the end of each week until your reach 30 minutes of exercise per day. Increase the intensity of your exercise on a weekly basis as well. Never exercise outdoors in hot weather; overheating puts your baby at risk. If you can’t carry a conversation while you’re exercising, you are exercising too vigorously.
Pregnant women should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week. Walking, swimming, water aerobics and yoga are acceptable exercises for pregnant women. Pregnant women can often perform these exercises from their fourth week of pregnancy until the day they deliver the baby. Swimming and water aerobics are pregnancy favorites because they keep your body cool while exercising, reduce swelling and reduce your risk of joint related injuries. If you were a runner or jogger before pregnancy, you can usually continue, but first get approval from your doctor. Cycling is a suitable exercise at four weeks into pregnancy, but a stationary bike is preferred because of the risk of falling, especially as your shift of gravity shifts as your stomach grows larger.
If you’ve had a previous miscarriage or are at risk for a complicated pregnancy, your doctor may advise against exercise or the exercises you can perform may be limited. If you experience abdominal pain, back pain, vaginal bleeding or fluids leaking from your vagina, stop exercising and consult with your doctor. These are symptoms of an early miscarriage. If you haven’t had your pregnancy confirmed with a positive test result, these are also symptoms of your period and may indicate that you have not been pregnant.