The benefits of exercise for your physical health are well documented, and many people enjoy mental health benefits as well. However, if you’re pregnant, you may have been told it isn’t safe to exercise. We’re here to set the record straight and guide you on what you can do safely.
At Serrano OB/Gyn in San Antonio, Texas, our talented staff encourages most women to enjoy regular physical activity throughout their pregnancies. There are some exceptions, but Dr. Christopher Serrano recommends that most women exercise during pregnancy, with some adjustments in each trimester.
If you’re healthy and your pregnancy isn’t considered high-risk, it’s likely safe for you to either continue your usual exercise routine or to begin a prenatal exercise program. Exercise won’t make it more likely that you’ll miscarry, go into labor early, or that your baby will have a low birth weight.
During your first visit, Dr. Serrano asks about your physical activity, and it’s an ideal time for you to bring up any questions you may have about exercise. Whether you’re already active or you’re just starting out, we can help you evaluate how exercise can be part of your pregnancy.
Just like exercise at any time is good for you, so it is during pregnancy. It can improve your mood, alleviate some common discomforts of pregnancy, lower your risk of complications, and prepare your body for labor. Some specific benefits include:
- Less back pain and swelling
- Less constipation and bloating
- Healthy weight gain
- Increased muscle strength
- Better cardiovascular health
- More energy
- Better sleep
Regular workouts may also help lower your risk of developing gestational diabetes or needing an unplanned C-section. Finally, regular physical activity can result in shorter labor and a faster recovery.
Guidelines for safe exercise
Following just a few guidelines can keep your exercise during pregnancy both safe and beneficial. Here are some tips:
Set a routine
Ideally, you should aim for about 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise most days, or around 150 minutes each week. You can break the time up into any intervals that work for you.
For example, you may need several short sessions each day, so take three 10-minute walks. Making exercise work in the context of your schedule is important.
If you’re only beginning to exercise, be sure to slowly ramp up your activity level over time. Begin with a five- or 10-minute walk and slowly add to it.
If, however, you were active prior to becoming pregnant, you can likely continue with your same routine. Talk to Dr. Serrano about any modifications you may need to make.
Choose your activity carefully
The most beneficial and safest exercises during pregnancy include:
- Brisk walking: You can increase the intensity by using trekking poles
- Water exercise: Swimming individually or in a class is good for your joints
- Prenatal yoga: Modified to reduce stress and improve flexibility
- Prenatal group classes: Designed specifically to increase strength and balance during pregnancy
Consider the intensity
Aim for both low-impact and moderate intensity when it comes to exercise. You want to raise your heart rate and begin sweating, but you should be able to speak comfortably throughout your workout. Don’t reach the point of gasping for breath or having to stop the activity.
Your body will change
As your pregnancy progresses, your changing body should influence the types of exercise you do and the level of intensity. Some changes to expect include:
- Relaxed joint ligaments: Your joints will be less stable
- Shifting center of gravity: Your belly gets bigger and your balance changes
- Greater need for oxygen: Pregnancy makes your entire cardiovascular system work harder
Overall, you want to be careful with your joints, watch your balance, and not overburden your cardiovascular system when you exercise.
Some restrictions apply
In certain situations, Dr. Serrano may recommend restricting your activity or ruling it out entirely. Examples include:
- Having twins or triplets
- Severe anemia
- Certain heart or lung diseases
- Placenta previa
- Preterm labor
- Problems with your cervix
- Ruptured membrane
Many of the kinds of conditions that require restricting your activity level tend to develop during the later stages of pregnancy. Even if you’re cleared to exercise early in your pregnancy, things can change if a high-risk condition emerges.
We discuss exercise with you throughout your pregnancy, particularly during the third trimester. If you have questions about exercise, schedule an appointment by calling Serrano OB/Gyn or booking online today..