Pregnancy and Exercise – A Comprehensive Guide to Eliminating Risks

July 11, 2023
Nitha Girija Vallabhan – July 11, 2023

Hey there! Excited to welcome your little one? And you are probably thinking of ways…

Hey there! Excited to welcome your little one? And you are probably thinking of ways to ensure the baby’s health even before it is born, right? That explains why you have seriously taken up exercising.

Just as the term implies, exercise during pregnancy indicates pregnant women performing any physical activity to improve their fitness, flexibility, balance, strength, and overall health. These exercises may range from walking and swimming to yoga and tai chi.

Staying physically active goes a long way in promoting healthy pregnancy, robust circulation, a positive mind frame, and emotional well-being. More importantly, exercising is a great way to ensure healthy weight gain and gradually prepare your body for childbirth.

If you have started exercising, it’s good news. However, exercising at this stage has its share of risks. Being aware of these potential risks allows you to plan a safe and beneficial exercise routine. So today, we will explore the risks of exercise during pregnancy, discover exercises suitable for this stage and learn to identify high-risk pregnancy conditions.

Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy

benefits of exercise during pregnancy

Exercising during pregnancy has been observed to be beneficial for the health of both the expectant mother and the developing fetus. It offers a repertoire of physical and mental advantages for pregnant women that include:

Improved Cardiovascular Fitness

Swimming and brisk walking are aerobic exercises of moderate intensity that can contribute to better cardiovascular health during pregnancy. These exercises improve circulation, enhance lung functioning, perk up energy levels, and leave you feeling active throughout the day.

Mental Well-Being and Positive Mood Levels

Did you know that exercising releases natural feel-good chemicals known as endorphins in the brain? Make regular exercise a part of your life and you will soon experience lower stress levels, a more upbeat mood, and positive thoughts that play a role in keeping you relaxed and optimistic through the pregnancy.

Reduced Pregnancy-Related Discomfort

Pregnancy is a time when women experience a range of uncomfortable issues like fatigue, back pain, nausea, constipation, and swelling. Focusing on exercises designed to strengthen the core and pelvic muscles helps provide enhanced support for the expanding belly, thereby reducing backaches and ligament pain.

Potential Benefits For Fetal Development

Several studies have suggested that exercising during pregnancy may have a positive impact on fetal development. It can improve placental function so that the fetus receives enhanced nutrition and oxygen. Furthermore, exercises of moderate intensity may aid in preventing excess birth.

Understanding the Risks of Exercise During Pregnancy

risks of excercise during pregnancy

While it is great to explore the numerous benefits than the risks of exercise during pregnancy, it is essential to be aware of the risks so that you can take adequate precautions. Before starting with any kind of exercise, consult your healthcare provider for expert opinions and advice. With years of experience in guiding pregnant women, they can provide customized solutions that align with your unique health needs.

Another crucial factor in managing the risks of exercise during pregnancy involves learning to identify high-risk pregnancies. For instance, multiple pregnancies (twins, triplets, or more) fall in the category of high-risk pregnancy. Other conditions classified as high-risk are placenta previa, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, or a history of miscarriage or premature birth. Women with high-risk conditions must consult their doctor and discuss low-impact exercises that are appropriate for their situation.

So aren’t you curious to know about the potential risks of exercising during pregnancy? Here are some of them:

Impact on Fetal Development and Growth

While moderate exercises may contribute to better fetal health, high-impact exercises may adversely affect the growth of your developing fetus.

Increased Risk of Preterm Birth

Although there is a lack of conclusive evidence in this direction, some studies suggest that overly strenuous exercises may increase the risk of preterm labor.

Possible Impact on Maternal Heart Rate and Blood Pressure

Heart rate and blood pressure levels that tend to be on the higher side during pregnancy will further escalate when you exercise. Monitor these vitals to avoid complications such as preeclampsia resulting from high blood pressure levels,

Joint and Ligament Strain

Hormonal changes during pregnancy loosen up the ligaments to prepare the body for impending labor. Pregnant women are thus more prone to joint pain and ligament injuries during exercise sessions.

Overheating and Dehydration

Increased metabolic rates and hormonal changes make pregnant women more susceptible to overheating. If you fail to stay hydrated during a sweltering workout session, you could be at risk of dehydration that can imperil both your baby and you.

Pelvic Floor Dysfunction

Pelvic floor muscles that support the bladder and uterus tend to weaken during pregnancy, leading to problems such as pelvic organ prolapse or urinary incontinence. Some exercises like heavy lifting can aggravate such issues.

Guidelines for Safe Exercise During Pregnancy

safe excercise during Pregnancy

Time to move on to some general guidelines for exercise during pregnancy:

  • Seek the Advice of Your Healthcare Provider: Consult your healthcare provider before starting any kind of exercise to receive tailored guidance based on your specific conditions. 
  • Take it Slow: If you are new to regular exercising, begin with low-impact activities like walking and gradually build up intensity and duration.
  • Do not Forget to Warm Up and Cool Down: Warm up session will prepare your body for exercising and the cool-down session will take the body back to its resting state. Both are vital to prevent injuries like ligament tears.
  • Stay Hydrated: Keep sipping water before, during, and after exercising to prevent dehydration and related complications.

Another important point here is finding the right intensity and duration of exercise. To be on the safe side, aim for activities of moderate intensity. If the exercises are making you sweat but still allowing you to comfortably make a conversation, it is fine. As your abdomen continues to expand, certain exercises may seem too strenuous. Accept these changes and tweak your routine to continue exercising without straining your body too much.

What are suitable exercises for pregnant women? Do you have that question on your mind right now? We are coming to it. Remember that the physical makeup of every woman is different. But certain exercises are widely recommended for pregnant women.

Walking, swimming and water aerobics are activities that enhance cardiovascular fitness, soothe the joints, and reduce pregnancy-related discomfort. Prenatal yoga is another option that contributes to better posture and flexibility through its gentle stretches and strengthening techniques.

By making a few modifications to regular exercises and taking adequate precautions, it is possible to safeguard the health and well-being of your baby and yourself. Here are some tips:

  • Pregnancy is not the time to test your limits of endurance. So, refrain from excessive exertion or stretching that may lead to injury or dehydration.
  • If certain poses seem uncomfortable as your pregnancy progresses, use an incline bench or some pillows to avoid putting pressure on the abdomen and the pelvic floor.
  • To prevent issues such as overheating or dehydration, wear breathable clothing and exercise in well-ventilated spaces. Remember to stay hydrated as well.
  • Maintain a balanced diet including adequate calories, proteins, and essential nutrients to keep yourself nourished and support the baby’s growth.  

Now let us discuss another crucial element of exercising during pregnancy – the importance of listening to your body. By observing the signs your body provides during exercise sessions, it is possible to know if you are doing something wrong. For instance, if you are feeling dizzy or exhausted, you are pushing too hard. Customize your routine to align with your unique capabilities and comfort levels. If you experience shortness of breath, contractions or unusual pain in the abdomen, pelvic area or the joints, discontinue the exercise and seek medical attention at once.

High-Risk Conditions and Exercise

high risk conditions and exercise

As mentioned earlier, if you have pre-existing medical conditions, you may be more prone to risks of exercise during pregnancy. For instance, women with conditions like asthma, epilepsy, heart disease or diabetes may have to tone down their exercise routine and keep monitoring their vitals to ensure that all is well.

Women with gestational diabetes are advised to regularly monitor their blood sugar levels and seek the guidance of their healthcare provider to create exercise patterns and coordinate the exercise based on their meal times.

Hypertensive disorders in pregnant women that consist of chronic hypertension and preeclampsia demand extra attention when it comes to exercises. Although moderate exercises are considered safe, women with hypertension are recommended to regularly monitor their blood pressure levels and seek medical attention in case they notice unexpected fluctuations.

Women who are carrying twins, triplets or more must strictly follow the advice and restrictions of their healthcare provider when it comes to exercising. They may approve of low-impact exercises and gentle stretches after evaluating your physical condition. But if you are recommended bed rest, stick to it for the overall well-being of the babies and you.

Special considerations

Beautiful smiling pregnant woman with the doctor at hospital

Finally, we come to some special considerations you must know about while exercising during pregnancy. Let’s take a look:

  • Impact of Exercise on Weight Gain During Pregnancy: Exercise is a great way to maintain a healthy weight during pregnancy. To avoid excessive weight gain or loss, talk to your healthcare provider to decide on the right duration and intensity of exercise.
  • Proper Nutrition and Hydration for Active Pregnant Women: To meet the increased nutritional requirements of staying active during pregnancy, women must ensure a balanced diet and ample hydration.
  • Warning Signs to Watch Out for During Exercise: If you notice any warning signs such as shortness of breath, vaginal bleeding, dizziness, leaking of amniotic fluid, reduced fetal movement or contractions, stop exercising and immediately consult your doctor.
  • The Importance of Postpartum Recovery and Exercise: Although you may be eager to get back to an active life, it is vital to start slow to provide ample time for postpartum recovery. Excess strain may cause injury and hamper the recovery process. Be patient and discuss postpartum exercise plans with your doctor.

Final Word

To sum up, exercising during pregnancy offers women a range of health benefits that include improved cardiovascular health, reduced episodes of mood swings, better energy levels and an optimistic mindset. However, it is also vital to be informed about the potential risks of exercise during pregnancy such as dehydration, overheating, fluctuations in blood pressure levels and strain on joints and abdominal muscles.

Keeping your healthcare provider in the loop is a good way to get started with exercises. They can offer personalized guidance based on your specific circumstances. This way, you can make informed decisions about choosing safe exercise options of the right intensity and duration. Keep in mind the precautions and high-risk conditions we have discussed and learn to identify any warning signs your body may be giving you.

By understanding the risks and seeking medical guidance when necessary, you can embrace a healthier and more active lifestyle. So get going ladies and keep chanting ‘1, 2, 3, 4…I am awesome!’


Q1. What are the Potential Risks of Exercising During Pregnancy?

Exercising during pregnancy comes with its share of risks that include overheating, dehydration, falls and joint injuries. There is also the risk of complications in high-risk pregnancies. Always consult your doctor before taking up exercises during pregnancy.

Q2. Can Exercise During Pregnancy Increase the Risk of Miscarriage?

No. Light and moderate exercises do not increase the risk of miscarriage. It is in fact considered beneficial for the health of both the mother and the baby. Refrain from intense workout sessions especially if the doctor has warned you about potential complications.

Q3. Is there a Higher Chance of Premature Labor or Early Delivery when Exercising During Pregnancy?

No. Exercising during pregnancy does not increase the risk of premature labor or early delivery. However, extremely strenuous exercises may sometimes pose health risks in high-risk pregnancies. Ensure that the exercises you are doing are safe for you by consulting your doctor.

Q4. Are there Specific Exercises that Pregnant Women Should Avoid Due to Potential Risks?

Pregnant women are general advised to avoid deep stretches, exercises with a high risk of falling, exercises that put pressure on abdominal muscles, contact sports and exercises that strain the joints. Based on your level of physical fitness, your doctor may be able to recommend a customized exercise regimen. 


Choose Your Baby’s Age