Should You Exercise While Pregnant?

pelvic health physical therapy pregnant and postpartum athletes Sep 21, 2020
Pregnant Athlete
The female body goes through many changes during and even after pregnancy. One question we get often is, “Should I exercise while I’m pregnant?” Back in the day, it was recommended to rest as much as possible during pregnancy and avoid exercising. The evidence points in the opposite direction, and now most women are encouraged to work out but with precautions.
This includes both people who were physically active prior to pregnancy and those who were inactive. You read that right, pregnancy can be a great time to start a fitness plan especially if you want to improve the health of the mother and the baby. There are some changes to the body that we need to be aware of when planning an exercise program. There are also certain circumstances that would contraindicate exercise for a pregnant woman.
Changes to the Musculoskeletal System During Pregnancy
  • Increase in body mass
  • Lengthening of abdominal muscles
  • Increase in lumbar lordosis
  • Increase in anterior pelvic tilt
  • Increase in pelvic width
  • Center of gravity shifts forward
  • Joint laxity due to hormonal changes
  • Increased demand on the hip extensors, hip abductors, ankle plantarflexors, and pelvic floor muscles
Absolute Contraindications
  • Unexplained persistent vaginal bleeding
  • Ruptured cervix
  • Having 3+ babies in this pregnancy (triplets +)
  • Pre-eclampsia
  • Placenta previa after 28 weeks
  • Uncontrolled gestational diabetes, hypertension, or thyroid issue
Relative Contraindications
  • Recurrent pregnancy loss
  • Gestational hypertension
  • History of spontaneous preterm birth
  • Twins (after 28 weeks)
  • Malnutrition or eating disorder
Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy
  • Reduces maternal weight gain
  • Reduces risk of gestational diabetes
  • Reduces risk of gestational hypertension
  • Less likely to need a C-section
  • Less likely to have fetal macrosomia
  • Reduces risk of postpartum depression
  • Potentially reduces length of 1st and 2nd stages of labor
While it is very safe to exercise during pregnancy, it is wise to get some guidance from a professional especially if you were relatively inactive prior to pregnancy. It is important to monitor pain, dysfunction, and vitals during and after exercise. As physical therapists, we are mindful of diastasis recti and other common conditions that may arise and can guide you through specific triggers to progress or regress movements to meet your specific needs.
Exercising during pregnancy is healthy and recommended for the overwhelming majority of women. Use the above lists as a guideline to determine if you feel comfortable with exercise. However, please consult your physician regarding the safety of exercise for you during this time. Outlast Health and Performance can guide you along your path before, during, and after pregnancy to keep both you and your baby safe and healthy.
Corey Hall, PT, DPT

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