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Experts Corner

Fitness

Is Exercise Safe During Pregnancy?
By Lisa Stone, ACE

Q. Is exercise safe during pregnancy?

A. Not only is exercise safe during pregnancy, but it is now recommended in most cases. As long as your exercise program follows the 1994 American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists (ACOG) guidelines for exercise in pregnancy, and as long as you've gotten your caregiver's approval, you should be able to safely continue exercising right up until you have your baby.

Of course, your best bet is to find a program designed specifically for pregnant women and taught by an instructor trained and certified in pre- & post-natal fitness, whether it's a class or a home workout video. But, if you don't have access to such a program, you can modify a "regular" class to conform to the ACOG guidelines.

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Recommendation for Exercise in Pregnancy & Postpartum, February 1994

For women who do not have a high-risk pregnancy, the following recommendations apply:

  1. During pregnancy, you can continue to exercise and derive health benefits even from mild- to-moderate exercise routines. Regular exercise (at least three times per week) is preferable.

  2. Women should avoid exercising in a back-lying position after the first trimester. Prolonged periods of motionless standing should also be avoided.

  3. Women should be aware of the decreased oxygen available for aerobic exercise during pregnancy. Pregnant women should stop exercising when fatigued and not exercise to exhaustion.

  4. Changes in your body during pregnancy should be your guide to avoiding certain types of activities in which loss of balance is probable.

  5. Pregnancy requires an additional 300 calories per day. Therefore, women who exercise during pregnancy should be particularly careful to ensure an adequate diet.

  6. Pregnant women who exercise in the first trimester should drink plenty of water, wear loose-fitting clothing, and make sure that the area is well-ventilated.

  7. Many of the changes of pregnancy persist 4-6 weeks postpartum. Therefore, pre- pregnancy exercise routines should be resumed gradually based on a woman's physical capability.

Contraindications to Exercise:
  • Pregnancy-induced hypertension
  • Preterm rupture of membranes
  • Preterm labor during the prior or current pregnancy or both
  • Incompetent cervix/cerclage (a treatment for incompetent cervix)
  • Persistent second- or third-trimester bleeding
  • Intrauterine growth retardation

In addition, women with certain other medical or obstetric conditions, including chronic hypertension or active thyroid, cardiac, vascular, or pulmonary disease, should be evaluated carefully in order to determine whether an exercise program is appropriate.

(Source: The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists)

For more information regarding the recommendation above, contact:
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG)
409 12th Street, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20024-2188
(202) 638-5577

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