Women are encouraged to continue and maintain an active lifestyle during pregnancy in the absence of medical or obstetrical complications. Women in good health should engage in regular moderate intensity physical activity during a normal, uncomplicated pregnancy. Before starting an exercise program discuss your level of risk with your prenatal provider to assess your appropriate level/frequency of activity. For low risk, healthy women the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) recommends at least 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity activity. For women who have not exercised regularly before pregnancy, it is best to gradually increase up to 30 minutes a day.
Women should include a mix of aerobic, such as brisk walking, dancing, swimming, rowing or stationary cycling and resistive exercises, such as yoga, stretching, light weight lifting or Pilates most days of the week. A simple way to assess level of exercise intensity is the “talk test”, you should be able to carry on a normal conversation while performing moderate intensity exercise. It is also important to maintain proper hydration during exercise, always have water readily available. After the first trimester, also be mindful of your posture and avoid lying completely flat on your back, instead slightly elevate your head and upper back. Contact sports or activities with a high risk of falling are not appropriate physical activity during pregnancy due to the risk of trauma.
In addition to helping maintain or improve your cardiovascular health, studies show that regular moderate intensity exercise during pregnancy can actual improve pregnancy outcomes. Regular exercise has been shown to decrease women’s risk of developing preeclampsia, a potentially dangerous disease of pregnancy causing high blood pressure, edema, protein in the urine and possible seizures. Women who are active throughout their pregnancy also tend to have decreased need for pain medicine during labor and decreased length of labor. Obese women who engage in regular physical activity have a decreased risk of developing gestational diabetes. Women who do develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy and exercise regularly are shown to have improved glycemic control, decreasing the need for insulin management. Exercising regularly throughout your pregnancy can help boost your energy, improve your mood and decrease your risk of developing complications. Now that spring has arrived, it is the perfect time to get outside and start moving for you and your baby’s health.