Staying Fit During Pregnancy

Written by the Healthline Editorial Team | Published on March 15, 2012
Medically Reviewed by Lisa Haddad, MD, MS, MPH

Overview

Choosing to exercise during pregnancy is one of your best decisions, both for you and your baby. However, it is important to consult your doctor before beginning or continuing an exercise program. In most cases, your current level of activity will be acceptable and even encouraged. A moderate level of physical activity helps maintain cardiovascular, respiratory, and muscular fitness during pregnancy, while providing mental and emotional benefits. However, you may need to approach exercise differently when you are pregnant, especially at the different stages of pregnancy.

Why Exercise?

All women should engage in regular physical activity. For women who are not pregnant, exercise strengthens bones, builds muscle, provides a sense of enhanced energy, increases flexibility, and helps control weight. Exercise strengthens the heart and lowers cholesterol reducing the risk of heart disease. Many studies have found that women who exercise regularly and stay active feel better mentally; they are less stressed, depressed, or anxious.

The benefits of exercise during pregnancy appear to be even greater and exceed the risks in otherwise healthy pregnant women. The one possible exception is the elite or professional athlete, as well as individuals who participate in contact sports.

Women who begin exercise programs early in pregnancy also experience fewer problems later in pregnancy. Here is some of the evidence:

  • Exercise leads to positive outcomes for both mother and baby due largely to the improvement in maternal cardiovascular capacity.
  • Women who exercised regularly at or above 50% of their exercise level before pregnancy were much better off than those who stopped their regular exercise program before the end of the first trimester, according to a study of 131 well-conditioned recreational athletes. The women who continued to exercise were less likely to have cesarean deliveries or operative vaginal deliveries. Active labor was shorter. There was less evidence of acute fetal stress as signaled by the presence of either meconium-stained amniotic fluid (a sign the baby may not be getting enough oxygen), abnormal fetal heart rate patterns (indicating that the baby is stressed), or depressed Apgar scores (a quick way to assess the condition of the newborn at birth).
  • A study suggests that exercise does not appear to increase premature labor. Mild-to-moderate exercisers experienced no increased risk for preterm delivery, and the relative risk of preterm birth in heavy exercisers was cut in half because of improved conditioning. Heavy exercisers also experienced shorter labor.

Benefits of Exercise

Below is a summary of the likely benefits of exercise during pregnancy:

  • greatly reduced incidence of cesarean or operative vaginal delivery;
  • shorter labor;
  • less evidence of acute stress to the fetus;
  • lower rate of miscarriage of normal fetus;
  • reduced need for obstetric interventions, such as forceps- or vacuum-assisted vaginal deliveries;
  • feeling better during pregnancy;
  • decrease in perceived exertion during labor;
  • reduction in the risk for back pain and back problems among women who exercise before and during pregnancy; and
  • possible benefit to the baby-including leaner children and improved neurobehavioral development.
Was this article helpful? Yes No

Thank you.

Your message has been sent.

We're sorry, an error occurred.

We are unable to collect your feedback at this time. However, your feedback is important to us. Please try again later.

More on Healthline

Famous Athletes with Asthma
Famous Athletes with Asthma
Asthma shouldn’t be a barrier to staying active and fit. Learn about famous athletes who didn’t let asthma stop them from achieving their goals.
Timeline of an Anaphylactic Reaction
Timeline of an Anaphylactic Reaction
From first exposure to life-threatening complications, learn how quickly an allergy attack can escalate and why it can become life threatening.
The Best Multiple Sclerosis iPhone and Android Apps of the Year
The Best Multiple Sclerosis iPhone and Android Apps of the Year
These best multiple sclerosis apps provide helpful information and tools to keep track of your symptoms, including medication reminders.
Migraine vs. Chronic Migraine: What Are the Differences?
Migraine vs. Chronic Migraine: What Are the Differences?
There is not just one type of migraine. Chronic migraine is one subtype of migraine. Understand what sets these two conditions apart.
Common Asthma Triggers and How to Avoid Them
Common Asthma Triggers and How to Avoid Them
Learn about some of the most common triggers for asthma, as well as measures you can take to minimize your risk of exposure, symptoms, and flares.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement