3 exercises to avoid during pregnancy – and 7 that are safer
December 11, 2018
Time and again, research has shown that exercise is safe and beneficial for women at all stages of pregnancy. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends it, stating that exercise does not increase the risk of low birth weight, premature delivery, or miscarriage in women with normal pregnancies.
In fact, pregnant women who get the minimum recommended 30 minutes per day of exercise tend to have easier pregnancies, labors, and deliveries than women who lead sedentary lifestyles.
The uterus is a muscular organ, and an amniotic fluid sack (a bag of protective liquid) keeps a baby well protected the majority of the time. Most exercises are safe during a normal pregnancy, as long as you take certain precautions. However, to protect your health and to eliminate unnecessary risks to your developing baby, certain activities are not advised.
Avoid these activities throughout pregnancy
We recommend abstaining from the following activities until you are cleared by your doctor after recovery from childbirth:
- Lifting heavy weights: Strength training is important for women’s health, but starting in the second trimester, we advise women to lift no more than 10 to 15 lbs. of anything, not just barbells but also toddlers and older children. This is mostly due to stability – with a growing baby bump, your balance will change, increasing your risk of falling and injuring your head or abdomen.
- Scuba diving: As you dive into deep water, pressure increases (hence the need for special diving suits and gear). However, even counterbalanced pressure can be harmful to pregnancy.
- Skydiving: The risks involved with skydiving to you and your baby outweigh the potential benefits of entertainment and exhilaration.
These exercises are safe, with certain precautions
- Cycling: Stationary biking and riding on regular streets, sidewalks, and well-maintained dirt or asphalt trails are generally safe. Ensure that your brakes are functioning, avoid rocky trails that could increase the risk of toppling over, and wear a helmet when biking outdoors.
- Rock climbing: If you use an indoor climbing wall, use safety clips and protective gear. Outdoors, choose easy courses with accessible, sturdy foot- and handholds to reduce the risk of injury, and wear protective gear.
- Skiing: Cross-country skiing is generally safe if you take standard precautions for personal safety, including cold-weather protective clothing. For downhill skiing, choose gentle slopes and avoid steep, icy, and crowded runs to reduce the risk of collisions or falls.
- Yoga: Most poses are safe during pregnancy, as long as your balance is stable. However, we recommend avoiding hot yoga to prevent dehydration and other potentially risky side effects.
Related reading: You can exercise while pregnant – start now!
These exercises are generally safe throughout pregnancy
- Running: Most pregnant women who were runners before pregnancy can safely continue the sport, even up to the third trimester. Alysia Montano, an 800-meter runner, even participated in the U.S. Track and Field Championships while pregnant with her second child!
- Swimming and snorkeling: Lap swimming and snorkeling are fun ways to stay active while reducing pressure on your knees and ankles.
- Walking: This old standby is a go-to exercise for many people, pregnant or not, and offers similar health benefits to running.
Exercise is important for women’s health, and particularly for healthy pregnancies. Although approximately one-third of all pregnancies result in miscarriage, these tragedies rarely have anything to do with the mother’s activities; rather, pregnancy loss is typically associated with factors outside our control, such as fetal abnormality.
If you have concerns or questions about exercise or particular activities, visit with your Ob/Gyn. Our goal is the same as yours: Healthy pregnancies, healthy moms, and healthy babies.