Physical Activity during Pregnancy & Postpartum FAQs
Exercise is healthy for most low-risk pregnant and postpartum women. Before you begin to exercise, talk with your health care provider.
Q: Is it safe to exercise while pregnant?
- Yes, if you are are having a healthy pregnancy, you should be physically active while you are pregnant.
- Low impact exercise, such as, walking, jogging, and swimming have been shown to be safe during pregnancy.
- One risk to the pregnancy may be overheating (hyperthermia). It is advised that exercising in hot and humid conditions be avoided. Drinking plenty of fluids while exercising reduces this risk.
- Avoid activities that increase the risk for falls or injury to your belly.
- Trust your body’s cues to know when to limit your exercise. Continue as you feel comfortable. Your body will be changing with your pregnancy.
Q: Is it safe to continue doing the exercises I did before pregnancy?
The answer is yes if:
- You are having a healthy pregnancy.
- Your usual exercise does not include severe overheating (hyperthermia)
- Your usual exercise does not put you at increased risk for falling (your balance may change and your joints become more relaxed).
- Your usual exercise does not include a risk of injuring your belly such as being hit or falling.
- Your usual activity does not cause threat of pressure changes such as scuba diving.
- Your usual activity does not cause significant joint impact.
Q: Can I start a new exercise while pregnant?
The answer is yes if:
- You are having a healthy pregnancy.
- You are physically active.
- Your new activity does not include severe overheating (hyperthermia).
- Your new activity does not put you at increased risk for falling (your balance may change and your joints become more relaxed).
- Your new activity does not include a risk of injuring your belly such as being hit or falling.
- Your new activity does not cause threat of pressure changes such as scuba diving.
- Your new activity does not cause significant joint impact.
- Your new activity does not require lying flat on your back, especially later in pregnancy. Your expanding uterus can put weight on the blood vessel that returns blood from your legs to your heart which can reduce the blood flow to you and baby.
Stop exercising and call your health care provider right away if you have:
- Abdominal pain
- Leaking of fluid
- Severe headache that doesn’t go away
Q: Is it safe to lift weights during pregnancy? How much weight can I lift?
It is still safe to lift weights during pregnancy, just keep a few things in mind:
- Try to be extra careful with free weights so that you don’t accidently bump them into your expanding belly.
- Pregnancy hormones that relax your ligaments and loosen your joints can put you at a higher risk of strains and injuries while lifting weights. Because of that, don’t focus on adding bulk during your pregnancy, but instead, focus on maintaining your muscles by lifting lighter weights and by doing more reps.
- Lastly, after your 1st trimester, don’t do any weight-lifting exercises that require you to lie flat on your back. Your expanding uterus can put weight on the blood vessel that returns blood from your legs to your heart which can reduce the blood flow to you and baby.
- Talk with your health care provider about specific weight-lifting restrictions you should follow.
Q: Can I still lift my other children?
It is still safe to lift your other children while pregnant. Remember that pregnancy hormones can leave your joints and ligaments at risk for strains and injuries, so lift with your legs and not with your back. If you have pain or spotting, make sure to follow up with your doctor. Talk with your health care provider about specific weight restrictions you should follow.
Q: Is it safe to do sit-ups or other abdominal exercises?
It is safe to do traditional sit-ups during your first trimester. However, after your first trimester, you should avoid lying flat on your back. The increased weight of your uterus can put pressure on the blood vessel that returns blood from your legs to your heart which can reduce blood flow to you and baby. You can modify your exercise by doing sit-ups on an inclined bench with your head being higher than your feet. Physical trainers can give you other ideas about doing abdominal exercises that do not involve lying flat on your back.
Trust your body’s cues to know when to limit your exercise. Continue as you feel comfortable. Your body will be changing with your pregnancy.
Q: Now that I’m pregnant, do I have to stay within a certain heart rate zone when I exercise?
There is no longer a goal heart rate zone for pregnant women to aim for while exercising. A general rule of thumb is that if you aren’t able to talk comfortably, you are overdoing it.
Q: Is it safe to play contact sports during pregnancy?
No, it is not safe to play sports where you have person-to-person contact as part of the game. Examples of contact sports include hockey, basketball, and soccer.
Q: Is it safe to practice martial arts during pregnancy?
Martial arts are considered a contact sport and therefore should be avoided during pregnancy.
Q: Is it safe to ride my bike during pregnancy?
Yes, cycling is safe during pregnancy and provides a good aerobic workout. Make sure to always wear your helmet. Take precaution to avoid falls.
Q: Is it safe to go horseback riding while I am pregnant?
In general, sports activities that have a high risk of falling, including horseback riding, are not recommended during pregnancy.
Q: Is it safe to drink sports drinks while I am pregnant?
- Sports drinks are designed to replace fluids and salts that are lost during prolonged periods of intense exercise. Most pregnant women are not likely to take part in this type of physical activity, making the need for sports drinks limited. Drinking water is preferred; however, sports drinks in moderation are unlikely to be harmful.
- Avoid energy drinks.
- Drink water when you are thirsty.
Q: How much water should I drink if I exercise while pregnant?
- Generally if you drink enough fluid so that you rarely feel thirsty and urinate colorless or light yellow urine several times a day, your fluid intake is probably enough.
- Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding need more fluids to stay hydrated. The Institute of Medicine recommends that pregnant women drink about 10 cups of fluids daily. Women who exercise will likely need more. Certain types of fluids are better for you and your baby.
Q: Should I wait to begin exercising after having my baby?
Not anymore! New recommendations are that women who had uncomplicated births and were active during their pregnancy can resume exercising a few days after birth.
Q: Why should I exercise after having my baby?
- Help you achieve a healthy weight
- Strengthen your muscles so you have fewer backaches
- Improve your energy level
- Improve your mood
- Reduce your risk for heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, and certain types of cancer
- Improve your sleep at night
Q: I don’t have time to exercise now that I am a mom, what can I do?
Walking and low-impact sports such as swimming, dancing, and riding a stationary bike are always a good idea. Try to stay in motion for 10 minutes at a time, aiming for at least 30 minutes most days. If you are walking with the baby, use a stroller to protect and strengthen your back. Keep the baby close (like in a front pack), use good posture and tighten your stomach muscles, and wear a good supportive bra.
Multitask! Combine your physical activity with your social activity. Perhaps join a postpartum exercise class, or take a daily walk with friend or family member.
Be sure to:
- Breathe throughout the activity.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Stop if you feel pain or exhaustion.
- Stop if you have bright red vaginal bleeding that is heavier than a period, and contact your health care provider.