Answer All Your Questions About Exercise During Pregnancy

By Sofie Jacobs

Although it may seem like it sometimes, pregnancy is not an ailment. Some days your body may ache, your energy disappears and you wonder how you’ll make it through the next months. Believe it or not, exercise may be the answer. Assuming your pregnancy is progressing without any complications, exercise, balanced nutrition and a mind/body connection are the three pillars to wellbeing during pregnancy.

The Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy

As a Midwife and a fully trained Pilates teacher, I strongly believe in exercise during an uncomplicated pregnancy and have witnessed the benefits first hand. Ideally, exercise is part of your lifestyle before pregnancy, but if it’s not, it’s never too late to start. Whether it’s continuing a modified version of an existing routine, or you’re a first-timer, the earlier you get started the better your body will be prepared for the coming months ahead.

Research and my experience show that exercise during pregnancy can help with the following:


1. Overcoming fatigue

2. Reduce constipation

3. Improve posture

4. Reduce fluid retention

5. Improve sleep

6. Balance emotional changes

7. Weight management

8. Increase body awareness

9. Speed-up post-partum recovery

10. Reduce back pain

11. Control glucose levels


By no means am I recommending starting a hard-core training routine. Pregnancy is not a time to get fitter and buffer, but a time to maintain your fitness level. I recommend my clients strive for around 30 minutes of cardio on most days of the week, this could be as simple as fast walking; 30- 60 minutes a few times a week of strengthening exercises to build up what is weak; and daily stretching, within a range that is comfortable for you, to lengthen what is tight. This will help your body cope with the changes that lie ahead.

When Should I Exercise During Pregnancy?

During the first trimester, your body will go through a lot of changes, both emotional and physical. Whether exercise is part of your lifestyle, or you’re starting a new routine, it may be the last thing you feel like doing. In actual fact, if your pregnancy is complication-free, this is the ideal time to tune in with your body, embrace an exercise routine that suits you and/or modify whenever needed; it will benefit you in the long run and make you feel better almost instantly. After the first trimester, you may notice that your energy levels increase and you are generally feeling better. Although this may be the case, you must be cautious of overdoing it.  During this phase the levels of relaxin (a hormone which softens your ligaments in preparation for birth) increase which can result in overstretching or exerting your ligaments and cause injury. Be very careful with single leg weight bearing exercises and be mindful to stretch within a comfortable range. If you are taking a class make sure your instructor knows that you are pregnant. Now is the perfect time to join a prenatal class or work with a personal trainer/teacher who specialises in prenatal exercise. This is especially helpful if you are a newbie.

When it comes to how long into your pregnancy you can continue to exercise, there really is no rule. In theory, you can continue to exercise throughout the third trimester right up to your birth date. As your baby and body grown you may have to switch to gentler exercises such as swimming or water-based exercises, yoga, pilates or walking. It’s important that you tune into your body and find a routine that works for you and makes you feel good.

A Few Pointers to Keep in Mind

It’s a lot to take in, but here are a few guidelines to help you safely exercise throughout your pregnancy: (no complications)


1. Do continue or begin an exercise routine

2. Do modify your existing routine, listen to your body

3. Do mix cardio with strengthening and lengthening exercises

4. Do follow a healthy, balanced diet to accompany your routine and keep your energy up

5. Do wear appropriate clothing so as not to overheat

6. Do include focused breathing in your routine

7. Do get adequate rest/sleep

8. Do see your doctor before beginning any routine

9. DO NOT partake in high intensity or hard core training unless you were already training at this level pre-pregnancy

10. DO NOT continue to lie on your back after 18 weeks if you feel dizzy or light-headed

11. DO NOT continue if you are injured or experiencing pain, see your doctor


When is it NOT Safe to Exercise During Pregnancy?

Always visit your doctor before embarking on any exercise regime.
There are certain conditions in which exercise is ABSOLUTELY not recommended such as the following:


1. Heart disease

2. Lung disease

3. Incompetent cervix or cerclage

4. Multiple gestations at risk of premature labour

5. Persistent second or third trimester bleeding

6. Placenta previa after 26 weeks of gestation

7. Premature labour during the current pregnancy

8. Ruptured membranes

9. Preeclampsia or pregnancy induced hypertension

10. Severe anemia


Below are certain conditions that MAY prevent exercise. Again always check with your doctor first and listen to your body.


1. Anemia

2. Unevaluated maternal cardiac arrhythmia

3. Chronic bronchitis

4. Poorly controlled type 1 diabetes

5. Extreme morbid obesity

6. Extreme underweight (BMI less than 12)

7. Extremely sedentary lifestyle

8. Intrauterine growth restriction in current pregnancy

9. Poorly controlled hypertension

10. Orthopedic limitations

11. Poorly controlled seizure disorder

12. Poorly controlled hyperthyroidism

13. Heavy smoker


These conditions DO NOT ALWAYS PREVENT exercise, but will definitely require your doctor’s approval and monitoring.

The key to a successful exercise regime is to find a routine, class or exercise that you love doing and makes you feel good. Whether you’re discovering movement and fitness or continuing an existing routine, the habit of exercise will be one that will pay off long after your baby has arrived and for years to come. 

Pregnant? Sign up to Urban Hatch’s online antenatal course, HATCH™  to learn how to approach pregnancy and parenthood with comfort and confidence.

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