You don't have to give up exercising just because you're pregnant. Most women who become pregnant can follow a modified fitness program with their doctor's approval.
The first step toward a pregnancy fitness program is to talk with your health care provider to make sure it's safe for you to exercise while you're pregnant, the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) says. If your health care provider gives his or her OK, discuss which exercises are appropriate for you. Gentle exercise during pregnancy can help you feel better overall and help you maintain a healthy weight.
Women who exercised before pregnancy usually can walk 30 minutes a day. Women who did not exercise before pregnancy should start with five minutes of exercise and add five minutes each week until getting to 30 minutes. When you exercise, your activity should not cause you pain, shortness of breath or excessive fatigue, the AAFP says.
Other types of exercise that usually are compatible with pregnancy are swimming and stationary cycling.
If the weather is warm or hot, do any outdoor exercise in early morning or late evening to avoid getting overheated, the AAFP says. When exercising indoors during warm weather, make sure the room has good ventilation. Drink plenty of fluids, even if you don't think you're thirsty.
Because pregnancy shifts your center of gravity, you should avoid biking, step aerobics, horseback riding, skiing, and any other exercise that could cause a fall.
Also avoid scuba diving and any activities in which you might be hit in the abdomen, such as lacrosse or hockey.
Performing unmodified abdominal crunches during pregnancy can injure and tear abdominal muscles, causing serious harm. Talk to your health care provider about how to modify crunches during pregnancy. After the first trimester, you should avoid exercising while lying on your back because the baby's weight may affect your blood circulation, the AAFP says.
Exercising your pelvic floor from the time you conceive can help ease your labor and delivery. Pelvic-floor exercises are called Kegel exercises, which, when done correctly, involve tightening, squeezing, and lifting the muscles between the pelvis and tailbone.
Pelvic tilts are also beneficial. These help strengthen the abdominal and back muscles and prevent backache during pregnancy. You can do tilts while standing by squeezing your buttock muscles and rolling your hips forward.
After delivery, regular exercise can help you get back in shape, but don't resume your fitness program until your health care provider says it is safe.