How To Exercise During Pregnancy

I believe that most healthcare providers say and do things with good intention.
However, that doesn’t mean that they don’t say or do things that cause more harm than good.

There is an unfounded claim still floating around that pregnant women should not allow their heart rate to rise above 140 beats per minute and should not lift anything heavier than 25lbs. Well, allow me to be the provider to tell you that for most, that is simply incorrect.

Here are the absolute and relative contraindications to exercise. A relative contraindication means you can still exercise, just with more caution.

Red Lights (Absolute Contraindications)

  • Unexplained persistent vaginal bleeding
  • Ruptured cervix
  • Triplets +
  • Severe pre-eclampsia
  • Placenta previa after 28 weeks
  • Uncontrolled thyroid issue

Yellow Lights (Relative Contraindications)

  • Recurrent pregnancy loss
  • History of spontaneous preterm birth Malnutrition or eating disorder

Green Light (Go For It!)

  • Any other circumstances!

Doesn’t matter whether you were active or not before pregnancy!

Why continue to exercise during pregnancy? There are quite a few benefits! These benefits are seen for those who are currently exercising AND those who are new to exercise!

Exercise has been shown to:

  • Reduce maternal weight gain, the risk of gestational diabetes, and the risk of gestational hypertension
  • Decrease the need for a C-section and the risk of fetal macrosomia (larger than average newborn)
  • Reduce the risk of postpartum depression , and even potentially reduce the length of the 1st and 2nd stages of labor.

The general recommendation is to accumulate 150 minutes of moderate physical activity and be active at least 3 times a week with a combination of aerobic and resistance training. Whether or not you were active before pregnancy, working under the guidance of a movement specialist (like a physical therapist,) is beneficial. Exercise modifications will be necessary along your pregnancy journey and into the postpartum period.

Everyone is different, and likewise, modifications to movements are made on an individual basis instead of on time-based criteria. Exercises should be modified based on symptoms. These include pain, leaking, pelvic heaviness, and abdominal coning. The goal is to ultimately meet your body where it is and keep moving in the most functional way possible.

At MOTION RX, we are equipped to address any pains that arise during or after pregnancy as well as assess movement patterns and make modifications based on symptoms. Checking in with a physical therapist on a monthly basis leading up to and following birth is a great way to prepare for birth and faster recovery afterward.

If you choose to exercise on your own, keep the below flags in mind. If you notice them, stop your exercise session:

  • Persistent excessive shortness of breath
  • Severe chest pain
  • Regular and painful contractions
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Persistent loss of fluid from the vagina
  • Persistent dizziness or faintness

As always, reach out to a professional for more individualized advice. We would love to be the healthcare provider that empowers you to continue moving & grooving during pregnancy!

Mottola MF, et al. 2019 Canadian guideline for physical activity throughout pregnancy. BR J Sports Med. 2018;52:1339-1346.