Alright … You see that faint line on the pregnancy test at home, you make a doctor’s appointment to confirm your pregnancy … AND … you start to panic and worry.
You start asking yourself a million different questions: Now what? Can I exercise? How much weight is “normal” to gain during my pregnancy? Can I run? Can I squat or will the baby fall out? Oh the questions … silly or not … This is when you need to STOP and BREATHE!
Pregnant women show a lot of fear about exercise while pregnant, and there are a lot of myths about what is safe and not safe during pregnancy. One myth, for example, would be if you weren’t active before you were pregnant don’t start now! If you were not active before you got pregnant, this is not the time to run a marathon… but you should be doing something to keep you active, even if it’s walking.
Start your workout routine slowly and build up accordingly based on recommendations from your health care provider and a qualified/certified fitness professional that specializes in prenatal fitness. The fitness industry is not regulated, so please make sure you do your research and ask questions when you do find an instructor to ensure they have experience and the certifications to teach a prenatal class.
Benefits of Exercising While Pregnant
Research has shown that healthy eating and exercising while pregnant has many benefits to both mom and baby. Such benefits include: lowering risk of gestational diabetes, minimizing weight gain, decrease in stress and anxiety, less complicated labour, reducing back pain, improving self image, increasing energy levels, faster recovery time, and babies are less likely to be colic and may have a healthier heart. (SOGC; AJOG). So if you have an uncomplicated pregnancy … GET MOVING!
PARmed X for Pregnancy
In Canada, the guidelines for exercise during pregnancy are found in the PARmed-X for Pregnancy form. (Wolfe & Mottola, 2002).
This is a medical tool used to screen pregnant women who wish to enroll in an exercise class. The health care provider would determine if there are any absolute or relative contraindications in their patient’s pregnancy and if physical activity is recommended. This is why it is important to have your health care provider to fill out this form PRIOR to participating in an exercise program. The recommendations for pregnant women who have an uncomplicated pregnancy is to exercise 3-4 days/ week for 30 minutes at a moderate intensity focusing on using large muscles groups. Examples of different activities would be: swimming, walking, cycling, low impact aerobics, resistance training with lower weights.
When to Stop Exercising and Consult your Health Care Provider
• Spotting or bleeding
• Decreased fetal movement
• Uterine contractions
• Feeling of dizziness
• Chest pain
• Shortness of breath
• Fluid leaking from the vagina
Being pregnant is very demanding on your body. The weight of your uterus puts pressure on your pelvic floor, which may lead to incontinence and lower back pain from the weakened muscles and tissues. It is NOT normal to pee a little when you sneeze or cough or jump! It is extremely important to continue your Kegels, proper breathing techniques and certain core exercises to reduce pelvic floor pain and incontinence issues. An estimated 70% of women do not know how to properly complete a Kegel exercise. If this is you … please go see a fitness professional who specializes in prenatal fitness, or a physiotherapist who specializes in pelvic floor treatments so they can ensure you are completing them properly.
You can still complete core exercises while pregnant. It is not recommended to lay flat on your back after 16 weeks due to the increase weight of the uterus putting pressure on the inferior vena cava, which would decrease blood supply to the fetus and cause you to feel dizzy or nauseated. Instead, you can complete core exercises on an incline, laying on your side, and in a standing position. Front plank, side plank and back bridges are good examples of core exercises if they are done in a safe manner, with proper positioning, if you have an uncomplicated pregnancy and no sign of Diastasis Recti.
Weight gain during pregnancy
How much weight should I gain is a common question every pregnant lady asks their health care provider. It all depends on what your BMI is before you get pregnant. That being said, every women will gain weight at different rates, since every pregnancy is different. If you are concerned with how much or how little weight you are gaining, please make sure you talk to you health care provider. Being pregnant is not a time to be on a diet or restrict your calories in fear of gaining weight. You need to remember that you are growing a little human being inside of you (or multiple!), so eat healthy, exercise and do everything you can to have a healthy pregnancy!
|Weight Category||Pre-Pregnant BMI||Total Weight Gain|
|Weight Gain Rate in 2nd and 3rd
|Underweight ||< 18.5||28 – 40 lbs|
12.5 – 18 kg
|Healthy Weight||18.5 – 24.9||25 – 35 lbs|
11.5 – 16 kg
|Overweight||25.0 – 29.9||15 – 25 lbs|
7 – 11.5 kg
|Obese||> 30||11 – 20 lbs|
5 – 9 kg
*Health Canada 2010 Gestational Weight Gain Guidelines
BMI = weight (kg)/height (m)2
It is so important to stay active and eat healthy during your pregnancy. Every woman has a different experience being pregnant. What worked for your sister or friend, may not work for you. Some women can run until the end of their pregnancy, and some can barely walk by 20 weeks due to pelvic floor heaviness. Be patient with your body and your pregnancy. Joints are loosening up, breasts are getting larger, hips are expanding, baby (or babies) is growing… your body is going through something amazing, but very demanding! So enjoy that low – impact aerobics class. Take a prenatal yoga class. Go swimming. The benefits of being active during your pregnancy are too good to pass down! As an added bonus, you’ll meet other moms to be!