I am reminded this time of year of the profound effect a warm day in the middle of February has on the psyche of people. As soon as the snow melted enough to expose the sidewalks and trails, the opportunity to get outdoors and get active became contagious. It seemed as if everyone had a bigger spring in their step and pregnant women are no exception. Along with the change in weather and eagerness to get outside, I tend to get more questions about exercise in pregnancy. Is it safe to exercise in pregnancy? Can I do too much? Is there any reason not to exercise in pregnancy? Is there anything I should avoid?
While some women may be apprehensive to do anything strenuous during pregnancy, for a majority of women, exercise is just fine and actually beneficial during pregnancy. If you are used to exercising when you are not pregnant, there is a very good chance you can exercise during pregnancy as well. While it may not be the best time to make the jump to train for a marathon, most women can continue what they were doing prior to pregnancy. If you aren’t used to exercising prior to pregnancy, you can still start, just take it slow and steady.
The American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology supports doing 30 minutes or more of moderate exercise during pregnancy in the absence of obstetric complications. There is also data to suggest regular exercise during pregnancy can reduce the risk of gestational diabetes and postpartum depression. The primary modification I tell patients to focus on is to avoid any sport where you are more likely to get hurt (downhill skiing, rugby, soccer, etc) and to pay attention to their bodies. During pregnancy, your exercise tolerance is lower so you will probably have to adjust the intensity you are used to. Instead of pushing yourself to go that extra ten minutes when you feel fatigued, you should probably slow it down. It is also important to remember that your center of gravity changes quickly during pregnancy which will affect your balance (important to keep in mind for yoga fans).
While there are very few reasons not to exercise, there are some individuals who need to talk with their doctor prior to starting a routine. If you have a history of preterm labor, seizures, heart disease, lung disease, high blood pressure, vaginal bleeding or concern you’re leaking amniotic fluid, it is a good idea to have a discussion with your doctor first. However, for most people, you have just as much reason to enjoy the warm weather as the next person.