Last updated December 2011. Planned review date: December 2012
When to be careful about exercise in pregnancy
For most women exercise in pregnancy is fine. However, if any of the situations below apply to you, talk to your doctor before exercising.
You should talk to your doctor before exercising if:
- you have any serious medical conditions or health problems, including heart or lung diseases, epilepsy, diabetes that is not well controlled or anaemia
- you have had any vaginal bleeding after 12 weeks
- you have blood pressure problems or signs of pre-eclampsiayou have been told you are at risk of going into labour early
- the placenta is over your cervix or low down in the womb (called placenta praevia) after 26 weeks
- you have a weak cervix or have had a cervical stitch there are concerns about how your baby is growing
- you smoke more than 20 cigarettes a day
- you have any orthopaedic problems (problems with your bones).
You should also avoid
- getting too hot when you’re exercising can overheat your developing baby. To prevent this, make sure you drink enough water, avoid exercising in very hot or humid conditions and give the sauna and steam room a miss.
- low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia). This is not good for you or your baby, so make sure you eat enough and limit your exercise sessions to 45 minutes maximum.
- exercising on your back after 20 weeks as it can cause low blood pressure and dizziness. The weight of your baby may press on a major blood vessel and reduce the blood flow to your heart.
- exercising at high altitudes (over 2,500 metres), unless you are acclimatised, as this reduces the oxygen supply to your baby.
You should also stop exercising if you have any of the following:
- shortness of breath or dizziness
- chest pain or palpitations (irregular heartbeat)
- tightening in your abdomen
- leaking waters or bleeding
- pain around your tummy or pelvis
- fewer movements from your baby
- muscle weakness
- pain or swelling in your lower leg.
RCOG Guidelines (2006) Exercise in Pregnancy, Statement 4, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
Department of Health (2009) The Pregnancy Book, NHS, London, 286153
In this section
How active should I be?
When to be careful exercising
Exercise/activity to avoid
Everyday activity suggestions
Pelvic floor exercises
Swimming in pregnancy
Running in pregnancy
Walking in pregnancy
Yoga and pregnancy
Aerobics and weights in pregnancy
Questions on exercise in pregnancy
Five pregnancy exercises (pdf)
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