A big question surrounding the bump: Is exercising while pregnant safe? Here, we put your fitness worries to rest
“You can’t do squats or lunges, it’ll make you go into preterm labor.” “You shouldn't run while you're pregnant, it will wreck your joints.” “If you keep jumping around like that, the baby’s umbilical cord is going to get all twisted up.” Having given birth to five babies—and exercising through my pregnancies!—I think I've heard every myth about sweating while gestating out there. But doctors say it's about time to bust the myth that pregnant women can't work out. Pregnancy is not a disease! Not only can you exercise but, according to a slew of new studies, you should. Here are seven science-backed facts about exercising for two. (Don't miss How Much Exercise Should You Do While Pregnant?)
According to the American Academy of Obstetrics and Gynecology, it's perfectly safe to exercise during your pregnancy as long as your doctor gives you the OK. They recommend that all women who have no complications with their pregnancies get “30 minutes or more of moderate exercise a day on most, if not all, days of the week”, adding that the exercise can be anything you enjoy that doesn’t risk abdominal trauma. They say that mobile mamas have less risk of gestational diabetes, heart problems and even pre-natal depression.
Not only will exercising not hurt your baby, it can help your baby be healthier throughout their lives. A new study found that children of moms who exercised while pregnant had healthier hearts and a lower risk of high blood pressure, even as adults. Children of fit moms also had less risk of diabetes.
A meta-analysis looking at dozens of studies found no link between exercise and increased rates of miscarriage or premature birth for healthy women with normal pregnancies. In fact, one study found that regular walking decreased a woman's likelihood of going into preterm labor while sedentary activities, namely watching TV, actually increased the risk.
Many myths abound about what a pregnant woman can and can't do while pregnant. Some things are definitely off-limits (like scuba diving and cage fighting), but rest assured you're not stuck to walking slow laps around the block. These days, women rock their bump while doing CrossFit, running, swimming, yoga, dancing, and a variety of other activities. "If you were doing it prior to getting pregnant, it’s great to continue,” says Jennifer Daif Parker, M.D., of Del Ray OBGYN Associates. But she cautions that you do need to listen to your body and back off immediately if something starts to hurt or if you don't feel good. And don't feel like you need to maintain your previous levels—modify exercises to make them more comfortable, take additional rest, and be gentle with yourself. As long as you're respecting your limits, you're no more likely to get injured than anyone else.
Women who exercised during their pregnancies reported having shorter, less painful, and less complicated deliveries than their sedentary sisters. Even better, another study showed that babies of moms who exercised were more likely to be born at a healthy weight and handled the stress of delivery better. (Experts think it's because the mother's exercise trained the baby's heart to be more resilient to physical stress.)
Exercise can ameliorate a lot of discomfort associated with pregnancy, says Carline Vilfort, M.D., D.O. In addition to helping relieve common complaints like back pain, insomnia, exhaustion, constipation, and sciatica, working out also triggers the flow of endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin, making you feel good overall. (And when you feel happy, so does your baby!)
Women who worked out gained about seven pounds less during their pregnancies than women who didn't. But don't worry, their babies' weights weren't negatively affected. In fact, one study found the babies of sweaty mamas were more likely to not be under- or over-weight. In addition, women who worked out reported recovering from the physical strain of labor faster.