Exercising During Pregnancy – Is it Safe?

Exercising During Pregnancy – Is it Safe?

Short answer: YES! Exercise during pregnancy can lead to benefits for mom and baby. Exercise is related to a lower incidence of gestational diabetes, C-section births, and lower birth weights. Not only is it important to exercise during the first few months of pregnancy, but it is even more important to continue exercising all the way through the very last months and days in order to receive the full benefits. So we know it's important to exercise, but what kind of exercise should mom be doing? Are there times when exercise isn't safe?

Exercise Type and Frequency

Please note these are very general guidelines for an uncomplicated pregnancy. Each pregnancy is different and it is essential to consult with your physician and physical therapist for safe exercise prescription.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has been integral in providing education for mommys-to-be regarding exercise. At the end of this post you will find a link with the full recommendations, but I will summarize them for you here.

Aerobic exercise such as walking, running, elliptical training, swimming, or riding a stationary bike should be done for 20-45 minutes at a time. If it seems hard to attain at least 20 minutes then try dialing back your intensity. You can do this by decreasing your speed, incline, or resistance. Do something you enjoy and would be willing to continue throughout your whole pregnancy. You'll want to participate in aerobic exercise at least 3 days per week and up to 6 days. Rest is important as well. Listen to your body! If you're feeling very tired then try to make it an active rest day – go for a leisurely walk or do a light yoga class instead.

Strengthening exercises with resistance bands or dumbbells should also be included in your routine. You'll be carrying that baby quite a bit post-pregnancy so strengthening your upper body will be important. Strengthening, stretching, and appropriate relaxation of your pelvic floor muscles can help during all phases of pregnancy, including delivery. If you haven't done general strengthening exercises or pelvic floor muscle strengthening and stretching before reach out to your physical therapist for recommendations on where to start. We are always here to help develop an appropriate program for you!

Exercise should be done at a moderate to somewhat hard level. One way to test if you're in this range is the “talk test”. As long as you're able to hold a conversation while you're exercising, you are most likely in a “good” range.

Safety

As already mentioned, please remember that these are guidelines for an uncomplicated pregnancy. While exercise is almost always safe throughout pregnancy, there are always exceptions to the rule. Be sure to speak with your physician and inform her/him/them about any new symptoms such as vaginal bleeding, abdominal pain, shortness of breath without exertion, dizziness, headaches, chest pain, or new swelling. You'll also want to exercise in a cool environment, drink plenty of water, and avoid prolonged exercise while lying on your back.

At Saint Barnabas Medical Center's Comprehensive Outpatient Rehabilitation Center we have physical therapists specialized in pelvic floor therapy as well as physical and occupational therapists who are here to prepare you for all your exercise needs before, during, and after pregnancy.

Resource:

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Clinical Guide

https://www.acog.org/clinical/clinical-guidance/committee-opinion/articles/2020/04/physical-activity-and-exercise-during-pregnancy-and-the-postpartum-period

Kate Bellucci PT, DPT, MSCS

Doctor of Physical Therapy

Multiple Sclerosis Certified Specialist

LSVT BIG certified

Phone: 973-322-7389

E-mail: Katharine.bellucci@rwjbh.org

Kate is a physical therapist at Barnabas Health Ambulatory Care Center. She treats primarily patients with neurological conditions and patients with gait, balance, and endurance impairments. Kate completed her bachelor’s degree in science at Michigan State University in 2014 then went on to complete her doctorate in physical therapy at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in 2018. She was granted the Multiple Sclerosis Rehabilitation Scholarship from the Consortium of MS Centers in 2019 and became a Multiple Sclerosis Certified Specialist and an LSVT BIG certified therapist in 2020. She serves as a member of the International Organization of Multiple Sclerosis Rehabilitation Professionals and the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers. She is from Somerville, NJ and still resides there with her husband, Eric and puppy, Lilly. When she is not working you will find her walking her dog, spending time with family and friends, trying to learn the Spanish language, running, or reading.

The Saint Barnabas Medical Center Rehabilitation centers are open and ready to help you achieve your goals. With four locations in West Orange, Millburn and Livingston, the experienced and compassionate staff at Saint Barnabas Rehabilitation offers adults and children the specialized care they need to resume an active life after surgery, injury or illness. They are committed to providing patients with the most advanced services in a safe, caring and soothing environment. For high-risk patients who are unable to visit in person, telehealth is an option. Patients do not need a prescription for physical therapy services.