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Exercising during pregnancy

Exercising during pregnancy
Reviewed by Dr Philip Owen, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist

Providing your pregnancy is normal, you can continue to exercise throughout the nine months. There are few hard and fast rules about whether exercise is beneficial or harmful in pregnancy.

However, you should always stop exercising immediately and contact your doctor or midwife if you:

  • start to feel unwell

  • feel dizzy

  • experience pain or bleeding.

What are the benefits of exercising during pregnancy?

Staying active during pregnancy will help keep your body stronger and more supple. You will have fewer problems with your joints, tendons, intestines, stomach and circulation.

Exercise will help prevent constipation, which is commonly experienced during pregnancy.

Exercise will make it easier for you to avoid gaining more weight than the average 10-12kg (22-26lb).

Childbirth is often physically demanding, requiring a lot of energy to push out a baby - particularly if this is your first child or there have been several years between births. This is why it's a good idea to keep in shape during pregnancy.

If you're not sure whether it would be healthy to start exercising, check with your doctor or midwife first.

What kind of exercise is suitable?

Sport safety
It is possible to continue playing many types of sport during pregnancy.
However, you should avoid any sport that will push you to extremes.
Always stop immediately if you feel unwell.
Swimming is both gentle and effective. If you haven't swum regularly before, you should start by swimming slowly for just 5 to 10 minutes on the first three occasions. You can gradually increase this time to 20 minutes at normal pace, two to three times a week.

Don't swim in water that is too warm - the water temperature should be between 18 and 25°C. Using steam rooms and hot tubs is not advised. This includes saunas - don’t be tempted to use these as they can affect blood pressure as well as the body’s fluid balance.

A brisk walk for 30 minutes two to three times a week is also an effective way of keeping fit.

Contact sports
Contact sports such as football are not advised during pregnancy.
This because of possible injury to you or your baby if you collide with another player.
Cycling is another alternative for mothers-to-be who have trouble walking during pregnancy. You should consult your doctor or midwife if you have problems with pelvic joint discomfort (pelvic arthropathy).

What precautions should you take?

During pregnancy, your heart has to pump extra blood to the placenta. Your pulse rate should not exceed 140-145 beats per minute when you exercise, in case your heart becomes overstressed.

Working out vigorously can be dangerous because of the extra strain this will put on your body and heart. This will cause stress for your baby and make you feel unwell.

During pregnancy it's normal to sweat more than usual. To replace this, it's important to drink a lot of water before, during and after any kind of exercise or sporting activity.

Good advice

As well as exercise, you also need more rest during pregnancy. Try to lie down and relax with your feet up once or twice a day.

Based on a text by Christel Bech, nurse

The materials in this web site are in no way intended to replace the professional medical care, advice, diagnosis or treatment of a doctor. The web site does not have answers to all problems. Answers to specific problems may not apply to everyone. If you notice medical symptoms or feel ill, you should consult your doctor


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