Exercise During Pregnancy: Experience a Happy and Healthy Pregnancy

Regular exercise has numerous health benefits across all stages of life, including pregnancy. While it is recommended to consult with your doctor before exercising during pregnancy, with uncomplicated pregnancies, it is encouraged as there are numerous benefits and minimal risks.    

No matter what stage of life you are in, the Orthopaedic Hospital of Wisconsin team wants you to be successful and live pain-free. In the blog post below, physical therapist Mariah Cloutier, PT, DPT, goes over the benefits and her recommendations for exercising while pregnant, following the safety guidelines created by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).  

Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy   

Women complete pregnancy exercise.There are many benefits to exercising while pregnant and in the postpartum period. Not only does regular exercise improve your overall health and fitness, but it can also ease several symptoms you may experience while pregnant and after.   

Benefits include:  

  • Lower risk of developing gestational diabetes  
  • Decreases risk for cesarean section  
  • Decrease the risk of maternal weight gain  
  • Decrease aches and pains, including low back pain and sciatica   
  • Potentially shortens the duration of labor, allowing for more efficient pushing  
  • Helps to prevent postpartum depression   

Pregnancy and Low Back Pain   

Exercise programs may need to be modified throughout pregnancy due to physiological changes. Women experience weight gain and a shift in their center of gravity throughout pregnancy. As the baby grows, a woman’s center of gravity shifts forward and creates more extension through the lower back, often leading to back pain. ACOG reports more than 60% of all pregnant people experience back pain. Core and pelvic floor strengthening exercises can counteract this and reduce the overall incidence of low back pain.   

Modifications in Training the Pelvic Floor Muscles   

Training the core and pelvic floor muscles is safe during pregnancy, but certain modifications are important to consider. Core strengthening can help maintain good posture and reduce the incidence of back pain. Many women experience diastasis recti during pregnancy and postpartum, which is a separation of the abdominal wall. It is recommended to avoid traditional sit-ups or crunches as this can exacerbate the separation. Instead, incorporate core stability exercises.   

It is very important to focus on engaging the deeper abdominals and pelvic floor with all core stability exercises. A cue often given is to exhale as you draw the belly button and pelvic floor up and in. Due to the natural separation of the abdominals as the belly grows, “coning” can occur. Coning is a bulge that appears along the midline of the belly with effortful movements. When completing core exercises and exercises in general, it is important to avoid coning and properly brace the core.  

Pregnancy Exercise Safety Recommendations  

Cardiac changes also occur throughout pregnancy, including blood volume doubling. With such a significant increase in blood volume, a heart must work harder to pump blood. This results in a higher heart rate and can lead to feeling short of breath sooner. Women also experience an increase in metabolic rate and increased oxygen consumption, resulting in increased respiratory rate and further exacerbating the feeling of breathlessness. Due to these changes, women should take a few precautions when exercising.   

Pregnancy Exercise Safety Recommendations Include:  

  • Stay hydrated while exercising.   
  • Avoid overheating – wear loose-fitting clothing and avoid hot and humid temperatures. 
  • Wear a belly support band later in pregnancy to reduce discomfort. 
  • Avoid exercising at high altitudes. 
  • Avoid contact sports due to the risk of abdominal contusion.   
  • Avoid activities with a high risk of falling (such as skiing or skating, especially if you do not have experience with these before pregnancy).  

Pregnancy Exercise Recommendations  

ACOG recommends at least 150 minutes (about 2 and a half hours) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week. Exercise intensity should be determined based on Borg’s Rating of Perceived Exertion scale. They recommend a perceived exertional level of 13-14. ACOG recommends including aerobic exercise and resistance training in your exercise program while pregnant.   

Examples of safe exercise during pregnancy include:  

  • Walking  
  • Swimming  
  • Stationary cycling  
  • Yoga  
  • Pilates  
  • Weightlifting   

If you are an experienced runner, racquet sports player, or athlete, you can likely safely continue all these activities throughout pregnancy, but ACOG recommends discussing with your physician first.    

Overall, exercise has many benefits while pregnant and can lead to a healthier mom and baby, making for an easier delivery, and setting you up for success postpartum. If you experience pain or discomfort that prevents you from successfully exercising, our team of orthopedic experts is here to help.  

 To make an appointment, visit www.ohow.com/request-an-appointment/ or call (414) 961-6800.