Tommy's PregnancyHub

Exercises to avoid in pregnancy

There are a small number of exercises or activities that may cause injury or other problems for you or your baby. Find out what they are so you can avoid them during pregnancy.

There are lots of ways you can be active during pregnancy, but the exercises listed below may not be safe now you’re pregnant.

Contact sports and pregnancy

Contact sports are activities such as football, rugby, hockey or martial arts. Because of the way they are played, there is a risk of your bump being hit and so it’s best not to do them at all while you’re pregnant.

If you’re part of a team though, you could still train with them – perhaps in the gym – as long as you don’t do anything where you could get hit.

Activities that have a risk of falling during pregnancy

Any exercise or activity where there is a risk of falling, such as skiing, climbing or horse riding, can be risky. This is because your growing bump alters your centre of gravity, which can make it harder to keep your balance.

If you cycle and you’re worried about falling, you could change to indoor cycling in a gym.

Exercising at high altitudes in pregnancy

You shouldn’t exercise at high altitudes (over 2,500 metres) unless you are used to it, as it reduces the oxygen supply to you and your baby.

If you have gone somewhere that is over 2,500 metres, you should wait at least four to five days for your body to adjust before you do any exercise.

Scuba diving when pregnant

Scuba diving is not safe during pregnancy.

Nitrogen gas bubbles can pass across the placenta and your unborn baby has no protection against decompression sickness.

Exercising on your back in pregnancy

After 16 weeks, exercising on your back can cause low blood pressure and dizziness for some women.

The weight of the baby could press on a major blood vessel and reduce the blood flow to your heart and therefore baby.

For this reason, we also recommend sleeping on your side in late pregnancy.

Exercise classes that aren’t made for pregnancy

While yoga, Pilates and aerobic exercise classes are great in pregnancy, make sure your teacher is trained to instruct pregnant women.

For example, they should advise you to avoid some exercises or positions, such as lying on your back after 16 weeks.

If you took part in any of the exercises before you knew you were pregnant and you’re worried, speak to your midwife for some reassurance.

  1. NHS Choices. Exercise in pregnancy. http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/pregnancy-exercise.aspx (Page last reviewed: 14/01/2017. Next review due: 14/01/2020
  2. RCOG (2006) Recreational Exercise and Pregnancy: Information for you, London, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists: https://www.rcog.org.uk/globalassets/documents/patients/patient-information-leaflets/pregnancy/recreational-exercise-and-pregnancy.pdf 
  3. RCOG (2006) Exercise in Pregnancy: Statement No. 4, London, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists: https://www.rcog.org.uk/globalassets/documents/guidelines/statements/statement-no-4.pdf
  4. Camporesi EM (1996). Diving and pregnancy. Seminars in Perinatology 20 (4): 292–301 http://www.seminperinat.com/article/S0146-0005%2896%2980022-X/abstract 
  5. Heazell AEP, Li M, Budd J, Thompson JMD, Stacey T, Cronin RS, Martin B, Roberts D, Mitchell EA, McCowan LME (2017). Association between maternal sleep practices and late stillbirth – findings from a stillbirth case-control study. BJOG; https://doi.org/10.1111/1471-0528.14967.
Review dates

Last reviewed: 31 July, 2018
Next review: 31 July, 2023