Physical Activity During Pregnancy

During pregnancy, healthy eating, physical activity (external link) and rest are all important components for growing your healthy family. Our bodies are designed to be active. Most of us need to plan some time each day to be active. It can be as simple as taking the stairs, going for walks or parking farther away. Exercise can also be more formal such as swimming or following an exercise program. If you have any medical problems or have not been active before becoming pregnant, check with your doctor/midwife before starting to exercise and complete the PARmed-X Screening (external link) to find out how to be physically active safely during your pregnancy.

Some of the benefits of being physically active during pregnancy are:

  • Better circulation and less swelling
  • Improved muscle tone
  • Increased endurance to cope better with labour and birth
  • Easier recovery after giving birth
  • Easier return to pre-pregnant weight
  • Improved sleep and more energy
  • Better digestion with less constipation
  • Reduced backaches, and muscle/ joint soreness
  • Fewer emotional ups and downs
  • Reduced risk of gestational diabetes and pregnancy-induced hypertension (high blood pressure)

Exercising safely in pregnancy

  • Choose fun, not strenuous, activities. Walking and swimming are generally safe.
  • Listen to your body - do what feels comfortable. If anything hurts, stop.
  • Do the talk test - if you cannot carry on a conversation during exercise, you’re overdoing it.
  • Your balance changes as your pregnancy progresses. Avoid twisting or jarring movements and activities that put you at risk of falling.
  • Drink plenty of water before, during and after exercise. Avoid overheating.
  • Make sure you exercise in a well ventilated area and wear loose fitting, breathable clothing and proper shoes.
  • After the 16th week of pregnancy (4th month) avoid exercises which require you to lie on your back. Instead, modify them so you can do them while sitting, standing or lying on your side.

After the birth of your baby, consult with your doctor/midwife before continuing your exercise program.

Stop exercising and seek immediate medical attention if you notice any of the following:

  • Gush of water or bleeding from the vagina
  • Uterine contractions that do not go away after a couple of minutes
  • Increased back pain
  • Sudden swelling of the ankles, feet or face
  • Swollen calf with pain and/or redness
  • High pulse rate or heart pounding for a long time
  • Extreme fatigue or shortness of breath
  • Severe headaches, dizziness
  • Decreased fetal movement
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Stretches

Kegel exercises

  • These exercises strengthen muscles around the vagina and in the pelvis, called the pelvic floor muscles, as well as support the uterus during pregnancy.
  • Strengthening these muscles may help with bladder control and healing after the baby is born.
  • Learn how to do Kegel exercises at the Women’s Health Matters (external link) website.

Pelvic exercises

  • Pelvic exercises help strengthen abdominal, back and pelvic floor muscles that surround the uterus and are stretched during pregnancy.
  • These muscles help you have good posture and reduce pressure on your back.

Prenatal/postpartum fitness classes

There are prenatal and postpartum fitness classes (yoga, zumba, and other workout classes) available in your community.
Some are offered through your local town or city – information is available on their websites

Also check out your local YMCA, and local businesses that run fitness classes.

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I've never really been active. Should I start now that I'm pregnant?

  • Yes! Physical activity can make you feel better and be beneficial for both you and your developing baby. Just start gently with walking or swimming until your body gets stronger. If you're unsure speak with your health care provider first.

I'm already active, but now I'm pregnant. Can I continue to exercise?

  • Absolutely! If you exercised regularly before becoming pregnant, continue your program and make changes as you need to. Talk to your doctor about your current routine to see if and when you may need to make any adjustments. Most importantly, listen to your body as it changes from one month to the next and only do what feels comfortable for you.

Can I lift weights?

  • Weight training is generally safe as long as the resistance is light to moderate. Using heavier weights could put too much stress on muscles and ligaments. Proper controlled breathing is also very important. After your fourth month of pregnancy, experts suggest modifying exercises that require lying on your back so they are performed on your side, or while you are standing or sitting.

How can I tell if I've overdone it?

  • Pay attention to your body. If you're really tired and feel like stopping, then it's time to stop. If you still feel tired, give yourself a break for at least a day. Call your health care provider if you have any of the following symptoms:
    • Persistent contractions
    • Bleeding from the vagina
    • Increasing back pain, pubic pain, or pain in the abdomen
    • Sudden swelling of the ankles, hands or face
    • Dizziness or shortness of breath
    • Excessive fatigue
    • Difficulty walking
    • Changes in usual fetal movement
    • Swelling, pain, and redness in the calf of one leg

Source: Public Health Agency of Canada (external link)

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