All about exercise in pregnancy

People may tell you that pregnancy is a good time to put your feet up. If your pregnancy is uncomplicated it is actually much healthier for you and your baby to stay active during your pregnancy.

Now you’re pregnant, being active will boost your health – it’s good for your unborn baby, too. It can also help get your body ready for giving birth and being a new mum.

Download our guide to staying active in pregnancy here (PDF)

Staying active during pregnancy:

  • helps you sleep better
  • reduces your likelihood of suffering from the common complaints of pregnancy, such as varicose veins, swollen feet and tiredness.
  • reduces your anxiety levels.

If you already exercised before pregnancy, it’s safe and healthy to keep it up. As your bump grows, you will probably find that you slow down naturally.

Miscarriage

Some women worry that doing exercise during pregnancy might cause a miscarriage but there is no evidence for this. In fact, keeping fit should make you and your baby healthier.

Read more

Getting active during pregnancy

If you weren’t very active before your pregnancy, don’t worry – this is a great time to start. You can build up your activity levels slowly and there are lots of small changes you can make to your lifestyle that will be good for you and your baby.

Getting active can be fun and it’s a good way to get together with friends and meet other mums-to-be.

Not sure where to start? Try our 10 tips for staying active in pregnancy.

What does ‘being active’ in pregnancy mean?

Any activity that makes you feel warm and a little bit out of breath counts towards your exercise goal.

Walking briskly, going up and down stairs and putting a bit more energy into doing the housework or gardening all count. You don’t have to do organised exercise unless you want to.

The main rule is to be as active as possible – how you do it is up to you. As well as being more active in the things you do every day, you could try swimming, dancing, jogging and suitable exercise classes.

Why is exercise good for my baby?

  • Being active will reduce your likelihood of having pregnancy problems such as high blood pressure or diabetes, which means less risk for your baby.
  • Women who do weight-bearing exercise (exercise where your feet and legs support your weight, such as walking, some yoga, dancing and so on) during pregnancy can have a shorter labour time with fewer complications.

Why is exercise in pregnancy good for me?

  • Being active makes you feel good, reduces stress and gives you more energy.
  • If you’re active, it’s easier to manage your weight during pregnancy and lose any extra weight after your baby is born.
  • Being active will help you sleep better at night.
  • You are less likely to suffer from the common aches and pains of pregnancy, such as varicose veins, tiredness or back pain.
  • Being active helps reduce constipation, which is a common pregnancy problem.
  • Exercise may help you cope with labour and delivery better.
  • It can reduce levels of anxiety and depression in pregnancy.

How can exercise boost my mood?

When you’re active, your body produces hormones called endorphins. Endorphins are linked to feelings of wellbeing and may make you less likely to feel anxious and depressed.

When you’re pregnant, your body is more sensitive to endorphins, so activity can boost your mood for longer.

Is there any exercise I shouldn’t do now I’m pregnant?

Try to avoid sports where your bump could be hit, such as football, rugby, hockey and martial arts. Activities where you risk falling, like skiing or horse riding are best avoided too.

Exercise in a very hot environment, such as Bikram yoga, can cause overheating and so is not advisable.

Find out more about the exercises to avoid when you're pregnant.

What happens if I’m not very active during my pregnancy?

If you are sedentary (not active) in pregnancy you’re at risk of putting on too much weight.

You are at higher risk of gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia and varicose veins and you are more likely to have physical complaints such as shortness of breath and lower back pain.

Keeping cool when exercising

To avoid overheating:

  • Give the sauna and steam room a miss
  • Avoid exercising in very hot temperatures
  • Drink enough water or other fluids
  • Give yourself a few days to get used to the temperature if you’re spending time in a hot climate and you’re not used to it.

Read more

Sources

1. Paisley TS, Joy EA, Price RJ Jr. (2003) ‘Exercise during pregnancy: a practical approach’, Current Sports Medicine Reports 2 (6): 325–30: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14583162

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. NHS Choices. Preventing osteoporosis. http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Osteoporosis/Pages/Prevention.aspx. (Page last reviewed: 20/06/2016. Next review due: 30/04/2019).

4. Clapp JF (1990) ‘The course of labor after endurance exercise during pregnancy’ American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 163 (6 Pt 1): 1799–805: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2256485

5. NHS Choices. Common health problems in pregnancy. https://www.guysandstthomas.nhs.uk/resources/patient-information/elderly-care/constipation.pdf. (Page last reviewed: 01/02/2018. Next review due: 01/02/2021)

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Last reviewed on July 31st, 2018. Next review date July 31st, 2021.

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Comments

  • By Elle (not verified) on 30 Dec 2017 - 21:27

    I am 10 weeks pregnant. About 5 weeks ago I collapsed and had to go to hospital. Everything was ok with baby, and I assumed I would be ok shortly. However I've been absolutely exhausted ever since and am spending most of my time in bed. The Dr has signed me off work due to fainting. I really want to exercise but the most I can manage is a short walk with my husband a few times a week. Is this ok?

  • By Midwife @Tommys on 4 Jan 2018 - 11:56

    Hi, Thank you for your comment.
    In early pregnancy women can experience extreme exhaustion and tiredness and it is important to listen to your body and only do what you can. You are still remaining active even if this is a short walk with your husband. You may find that as you go into the second trimester you start to feel better and your energy levels increase. Make sure you are drinking plenty of fluids and eating a health diet. Take care, Tommy's Midwives x

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