Years ago, women enjoyed eating whatever they wanted and resting through their pregnancies – like a nine-month sabbatical from their otherwise healthy lifestyles.

Exercise is recognized as healthy at any stage of your life and pregnancy should not interfere with this in most cases.

“As busy as you may be, it is important for you to make the time to exercise. Research has shown that women who exercise while pregnant not only tend to have smoother pregnancies, but they may also experience easier labors, and feel better about themselves during pregnancy and after delivery,” notes Katharine Wenstrom, MD, director of the Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at Women & Infants Hospital.

In addition, she says women with gestational diabetes might find that exercise provides additional health benefits related to that condition.

Get a move on

With any exercise, you should check with your health care provider to be sure there is no reason you should not continue your program. Otherwise, Dr. Wenstrom suggests the following exercise guidelines for pregnant women:

  • Continue mild to moderate exercise routines while pregnant, exercising at least three times per week.
  • Non-weight-bearing exercise such as swimming might be the easiest to continue throughout pregnancy and may reduce risk of injury. However, weight-bearing exercise, such as walking, may also be continued at close to your normal intensity level. You should be able to maintain a conversation while exercising to be at the right intensity, Dr. Wenstrom says.
  • Avoid bicycle riding after about 20 weeks of pregnancy because you will lose your sense of balance as your abdomen grows.
  • Avoid any exercise on your back after 20 weeks of pregnancy as this may decrease blood flow to the uterus.
  • Avoid moderate exercise in hot, humid weather, or when you are sick with a fever.
  • Wear comfortable clothing that will help you remain cool.
  • Wear a bra that fits you well and gives you plenty of support to help protect your breasts.
  • Drink plenty of water to help keep you from overheating or dehydrating.

Watch out

While exercising during pregnancy, listen to your body and signs it may be giving you, Dr. Wenstrom suggests. Stop exercising and call your health care provider if you experience any of these symptoms while exercising (note: call even if you experience these symptoms when not exercising):

  • Pain, including headache.
  • Vaginal bleeding.
  • Increased shortness of breath.
  • Rapid heartbeat.
  • Difficulty walking.
  • Uterine contractions and/or chest pains.
  • Fluid leaking from your vagina.
  • Dizziness.
  • Calf pain or swelling.

Talk to the Experts

Speak to your health care provider about your plans to continue or begin an exercise program during pregnancy. For any concerns that arise during pregnancy, Dr. Wenstrom and other maternal-fetal medicine specialists at Women & Infants are available for referrals by calling (401) 274-1122, ext. 41937. Please visit the Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine to learn more.