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 are pregnant.

Contact sports and pregnancy

Do not do contact sports are activities such as football, rugby, hockey or martial arts. There is a risk of your bump being hit so it is best not to do them at all while you are pregnant.

If you are part of a team you can carry on doing any non-contact training. But avoid any activities where you could get hit.

Activities that have a risk of falling

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 are worried about falling, you could change to static cycling.

Exercising at high altitudes in pregnancy

Avoid exercising at high altitudes (over 2,500 metres) unless you are used to it, as it reduces the oxygen supply to you and your baby.

Check with your midwife or doctor first and wait a few days to give your body time to get used to the lower oxygen levels If you are exercising at high altitudes.

Scuba diving when pregnant

Scuba diving during pregnancy is not safe for your baby. It puts them at risk of getting decompression sickness, which happens when gas bubbles pass across the placenta into the baby’s tissues and bloodstream.

Exercising on your back in pregnancy

Avoid lying flat on your back for long periods of time, especially after 16 weeks of pregnancy. The weight of the baby puts pressure on the major blood vessels. This can cause low blood pressure and dizziness and reduce blood flow to the baby.

This is why we also recommend sleeping on your side in late pregnancy. Research shows that going to sleep on your side in the third trimester (after 28 weeks) helps prevent stillbirth.

Exercise classes that aren’t made for pregnancy

While yoga and aerobic exercise classes are great in pregnancy, make sure your teacher is trained to instruct pregnant women and birthing people.
They should advise you to avoid some exercises or positions, such as lying on your back after 16 weeks.

Avoid any exercises that are done in very warm environments, such as Bikram yoga.

Try not to worry if you did any of these exercises before you knew you were pregnant. It is very unlikely that your baby has been harmed by any exercise you did before you knew you were pregnant. But speak to your midwife if you have any concerns. They may be able to reassure you.

You can also contact the Tommy’s midwives on 0800 014 7800 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm), or email us at [email protected].

  1. NICE (2021). Scenario: Antenatal care - uncomplicated pregnancy: NICE Clinical Knowledge Summary. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence https://cks.nice.org.uk/topics/antenatal-care-uncomplicated-pregnancy/management/antenatal-care-uncomplicated-pregnancy
  2. NHS. Air or gas embolism. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/air-embolism/ (Page last reviewed: 16 December 2020. Next review due: 16 December 2023)
  3. NHS. Exercise in pregnancy. https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/keeping-well/exercise/ (Page last reviewed: 20 January 20. Next review due: 20 January 23)
  4. NICE (2021). Scenario: Antenatal care - uncomplicated pregnancy: NICE Clinical Knowledge Summary. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence https://cks.nice.org.uk/topics/antenatal-care-uncomplicated-pregnancy/management/antenatal-care-uncomplicated-pregnancy/ 
  5. Heazell AEP, Li M, Budd J, Thompson JMD, Stacey T, Cronin RS, Martin B, Roberts D, Mitchell EA, McCowan LME. Association between maternal sleep practices and late stillbirth – findings from a stillbirth case-control study. BJOG2017; https://doi.org/10.1111/1471-0528.14967.
Review dates
Reviewed: 29 May 2023
Next review: 29 May 2026