Tips for Exercising Safely During Pregnancy

Pregnancy does not automatically mean your workouts have to stop. In fact, regular exercise during pregnancy can keep you fit and strong, which may make labor easier. Here are some ways to stay safe while working out during this special time.

1. Discuss your workout routine with your doctor. Your physician is the best judge of how safe your favorite exercises are given your specific circumstances. If you are having a normal, low-risk pregnancy, you may not have to alter your routine much at all, but it’s still a good idea to check in with your doctor as you advance through pregnancy to make sure your workouts are still safe.

2. Listen to your body. If you experience pain or discomfort, take it easy and consider taking a day off from working out. Don’t be afraid to modify your routine as needed; if jogging becomes uncomfortable, for instance, try walking instead. Pregnancy is not a time to “push through the pain.”

3. Take up gentler activities. If your favorite workouts were high-intensity or high-impact activities like distance running or martial arts, swap them out for lower-impact activities. Yoga, swimming, walking and other activities still get your blood pumping, but they are safer for your baby and more comfortable for you.

4. Drink more water than usual. Pregnancy increases the amount of blood pumping through your veins, and you may feel hotter than you do when you aren’t pregnant. It probably takes less activity to make you sweat, too. For these reasons, you should increase the amount of non-caffeinated fluids you consume to make sure that you stay well-hydrated during and after your workouts.

5. Increase your caloric intake. When you’re pregnant, you need 300-500 extra calories per day to fuel your body and help your baby grow. This is especially important if you work out. Add these extra calories in a healthy way by snacking on peanut butter toast, almonds, a cold glass of milk, or an ounce or two of cheese. The protein is great fuel for your workouts, and it keeps you feeling satisfied so you don’t overindulge.

6. Avoid exercises that need you to lie on your back, especially in late pregnancy. Just as your doctor has probably advised you not to sleep on your back after the first trimester, you shouldn’t exercise on your back, either. Being in this position puts pressure on the vena cava, a major blood vessel that runs through the right side of your body. If blood flow is reduced, you may feel dizzy, sick or lightheaded.

7. Be aware that your center of gravity will change as your belly grows. This affects your ability to balance during certain exercises, and it may affect your posture. If exercises become too difficult during the later stages of pregnancy, or if you feel unstable, discontinue that activity in favor of something that you find easier to perform. This reduces the likelihood of falls or other accidents.

Working out during pregnancy helps you feel great, and it builds strength that can help carry you through labor. With a few modifications of your favorite exercises, and your doctor’s blessing, you can enjoy a safe, active pregnancy.