Ask the Midwife/Exercise During Pregnancy

by Gail Chapin
Certified Nurse Midwife

Can you give me some general guidelines for exercise in pregnancy?
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has the following recommendations for exercise in pregnancy:
1. Regular exercise (at least three times per week) is preferable to intermittent activity.
2. Pregnant women should avoid exercises in the supine position (lying on the back) after the first trimester. Long periods of motionless standing should also be avoided as well as any exercise with the potential for even mild abdominal trauma.
3. Pregnant women should modify their exercise routines according to maternal symptoms. They should stop exercising when fatigued and not exercise to exhaustion. Women who exercise during pregnancy should be particularly careful to consume adequate fluids and calories.
4. Pregnant women should take extra precautions to avoid overheating while exercising especially in the first trimester. Toward the end of the pregnancy, women should be aware of their increasing loss of balance. Non-weight bearing exercises such as swimming or cycling will minimize the risk of injury.
5. Heart rate while exercising should not exceed 140 beats per minute. Work out time should not be too long. Forty minutes is about right. If a pregnant woman wants more exercise than this, she should exercise twice a day rather than longer at one time.
6. Women with the following conditions should not exercise during pregnancy:
* High Blood Pressure
* Premature labor
* Incompetent cervix/cerclage
* Persistent second or third trimester bleeding
* Twins
Many of the changes a woman’s body experiences during pregnancy persist 4-6 weeks postpartum. Thus pre-pregnancy exercise routines should be resumed gradually based on the woman’s physical capability.
Pregnancy and postpartum water aerobic classes are available at the Robinwood Medical Center swimming pool in Hagerstown. If you are looking for a good video, try Kathy Smith’s Pregnancy Workout or Buns of Steel Pregnancy Workout. Buns of Steel also has a postpartum video for after the baby.
Do you have a question about pregnancy, birth or women’s health? Send it to: Gail Chapin CNM, The Birth Place, 14478 Molly Pitcher Hwy., Greencastle, PA 17225. Or call, 717-593-9173.