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Fitness and recreation are important priorities for your health, both before and during pregnancy. After all, taking time to look after yourself helps to ensure that your pregnancy goes as well as possible and that you feel well within yourself.
Though staying active during your pregnancy is important, some activities may be unsafe for you and your baby. Whilst self-care and exercise are certainly healthy concepts in general, there are some activities that are best to limit or to avoid altogether whilst pregnant. For this reason, we recommend talking to your doctor about a fitness program that suits you and your particular situation.
Can I exercise whilst pregnant?
After you and your doctor discuss a safe fitness routine, being attuned to the physical changes of pregnancy can help you understand what feels safe. For example, as your body changes, your centre of gravity shifts, which can often lead to a tendency towards imbalance. As well, as your baby grows, your abdominal muscles stretch, which can make them weaker than usual. Other physical changes to your body can lead to changes in your circulation, which can cause leg cramps in some women. Every woman experiences pregnancy differently, so it is best to check in with your doctor if you ever have any questions or concerns about your levels of physical activity.
Low impact exercise is definitely good for you and your baby, and physical activities like walking, aqua-natal classes, pregnancy yoga and pilates, and exercises that are familiar to you can be very safe. If you were a regular runner before you became pregnant, you can likely continue running safely in the first trimester as long as you feel comfortable. In the second trimester, you will be developing a baby bump and the advice is “don’t bump the bump” so your doctor will advise you to reduce and stop high-impact exercise including running as your bump gets bigger.
What specific activities should I avoid whilst pregnant?
In the case of some physical activities, pre-pregnancy physical fitness and individual skill levels should be considered before taking part. For example, pregnancy may not be the time to learn how to ride a bicycle as the risk of falling is too great, but experienced cyclists may be able to continue cycling in the earliest months of their pregnancy. In general, however, any activity that might cause a fall is considered risky for pregnant women.
Also dangerous are activities that may involve any danger of trauma to the abdominal area. Contact sports like soccer and basketball are examples of physical activities that expose your abdomen to trauma due to the risk of injury from the ball or even another player.
Here are some more examples of activities to avoid whilst pregnant:
- Water sports like diving, surfing, and water-skiing. These sports, whilst exhilarating, put you at risk for falling forcefully into the water and causing trauma to your abdomen.
- Scuba diving. This water sport is highly risky for pregnant women due to its risk for air embolism. Air embolism is sometimes called gas embolism, and it is a disorder caused by changes in pressure that lead to bubbles forming in your bloodstream as you come to the surface.
- Snow sports like downhill skiing and snowboarding. These sports, like some water sports, put you at risk for falling forcefully and sustaining injuries. Experienced skiers and snowboarders should check with their doctors before enjoying these sports.
- Gymnastics. The risk of falling and causing trauma to the abdomen is too great.
- Tennis. Playing tennis safely often involves reliable balance, which can be a challenge during pregnancy. The sudden starts and stops can also be risky.
- Horseback riding. Like with gymnastics, the risk of falling is significant even if you are an experienced rider.
- Hot tubs and saunas. These activities pose a risk of overheating, which can lead to dehydration and fainting.
- Amusement park rides and waterslides. The suddenness of starts and stops associated with rides at amusement parks and water parks can put you and your baby at risk of injury.
- Exercising or resting whilst lying on your back. This position can impact your blood flow and decrease the amount of blood flowing to your uterus.
When might I need to restrict my activity?
Some women may need to restrict their activity whilst pregnant, even if they regularly exercised before getting pregnant. If you are at risk for pregnancy-related problems like preterm labor or pre-eclampsia, cervical insufficiency, severe anaemia, or other issues, talking with your doctor about your activity levels is essential.
Sometimes, warning signs may appear whilst you are exercising that indicate you need to stop exercising as soon as possible.
- Getting out of breath so that you can’t talk in complete sentences
- Feeling faint, sick, dizzy, weak, or exhausted are signs you may be overdoing exercise.
- Becoming excessively sweaty or feeling your heart race may be signs that you are overheating.
- Experiencing vaginal bleeding, painful contractions, or fluid leaking from the vagina is potentially serious and warrants an immediate call to your doctor.
Other possible warning signs include: headache, heart palpitations, calf pain or swelling, and blurred vision. Stop exercising if you experience any of these warning signs and get in touch with your doctor if you have any concerns.