Exercise during pregnancy should be done and is safe in a healthy, uncomplicated pregnancy. In fact, performing the recommended type and amount of physical activity during pregnancy achieves health benefits for mother and baby including reduced risk of pre-eclampsia, pregnancy induced hypertension, a reduction in instrumental delivery and unplanned caesarean section birth and may help to reduce the severity of lower back and pelvic girdle pain
According to the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG) evidence- based guidelines for physical activity in pregnant women, it is recommended that in a normal pregnancy woman participate in 150-300 minutes of moderate intensity or if previously exercising can continue 75-150 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise per week.
This can be completed over a minimum of three days per week, however, being active every day (ideally 30 minutes per day, less if previously inactive) is encouraged and doing some physical activity is better than none.
Training should be a combination of aerobic (brisk walking, cycling, swimming, dancing, exercise classes) and strength (body weight, light weight or resistance band) exercises and exercise intensity will vary depending how physically active you were or we not pre-pregnancy. Women who were active prior to conceiving can continue with their usual activities for as long as they feel comfortable but are advised to check with a health professional if they would like to continue with vigorous intensity or high impact sports and exercise
Additionally, some exercises may need to be modified as your pregnancy progresses due to biomechanical changes and pain i.e. After 16 weeks it is best to avoid exercises lying on your back.
Exercise is not recommended in all circumstances. The following are cases in which exercise is not recommended;
- Incompetent cervix
- Ruptured membranes, preterm labour
- Premature labour
- Persistent second or third trimester bleeding
- Placenta previa
- Evidence of intrauterine growth restriction
- Multiple gestation (triplets or higher number)
- Poorly controlled Type 1 diabetes, hypertension or thyroid disease
- Other serious cardiovascular, respiratory or systemic disorder
Stop and seek advice from a health professional if you experience any of the following while being physical activity:
- Chest pain
- Persistent excessive shortness of breath – that does not resolve with rest
- Severe headache
- Persistent dizziness / feeling faint – that does not resolve with rest
- Regular painful uterine contractions
- Vaginal bleeding
- Amniotic fluid loss
- Calf pain, swelling or redness
- Sudden swelling of the ankles, hands or face
- Decreased foetal movement
Still unsure what physical activity you can or cannot be doing during pregnancy speak with your health care provider before starting an exercising program
*Exercise intensity ratings are based on ratings of perceived exertion on a scale of 1-10 where 1 is not moving and 10 is maximal effort. Activities in the range 3-7 indicate moderate-vigorous intensity and are considered safe and are recommended for health benefits in pregnant women. This can also be judged by the ‘talk test’ in which a conversation can be held during moderate intensity activities but difficult during vigorous activities.
Written by Dr Nicole Cukierman, Fertility, Pregnancy and General health Osteopath at Fertile Ground Health Group.
Dr Nicole Cukierman is available for one on one consultations in person at Fertile Ground Health Group. Book in with Nicole and find out what’s possible for your situation.
Brown, W.J., Hayman, M, Haakstad, L.A.H., Mielke, G.I. et al. (2020). Evidence-based physical activity guidelines for pregnant women. Report for the Australian Government Department of Health. Canberra: Australian Government Department of Health.