Physical Activity During Pregnancy

The more active and fit you are during pregnancy, the easier it will be for you to adapt to your changing shape and weight gain.

Throughout your pregnancy aim to complete at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity per week, however some activity is better is none but more is better. Moderate intensity physical activity is any activity that increases your heart and breathing rate and may make you sweat, but you are still able to hold a normal conversation.

Also aim to do muscle strengthening activities involving all major muscle groups twice a week.

There is no evidence of harm to mother or baby resulting from moderate intensity physical activity during pregnancy, see the Chief Medical Officer Recommended Guidelines.

If you're not already active?

Start gradually, it's recommended pregnant women should begin gradually with 10 minute bouts of moderate intensity continuous exercise building up to a total of 150 minutes per week. This activity should be spread throughout the week. Examples of activities could include:

  • Swimming
  • Walking
  • Indoor cycling
  • Pregnancy Yoga
  • Aerobics

If you're already active?

Keep going, try and maintain your activity levels, you should adapt your physical activity and not stop it. However, you may need to change the type of activity undertaken and adapt your activity throughout your pregnancy, for example, replacing contact sports and vigorous running with a non-contact sport, moderate jogging, walking, swimming or an exercise class.

A general rule is if it feels okay keep going, if it is uncomfortable stop and seek advice from your midwife.

In addition to being physically active you should avoid prolonged periods of sitting and to break up sedentary time.

Exercises to Avoid

  • Exercise that involves lying on your back for longer than a few minutes (particularly after 16 weeks). This is because the weight of your bump presses on the main blood vessel bringing blood back to your heart. This could cause low blood pressure and make you feel dizzy.
  • Anything that risks your bump being hit, such as martial arts, football, rugby, tennis or squash. Also, activities that could lead to a fall or being thrown off-balance are best avoided, such as horse riding, skiing or gymnastics.
  • Scuba diving is not considered safe, as your baby has no protection against decompression sickness and gas embolism (gas bubbles in the bloodstream).
  • Exercising at high altitudes (over 2,500m above sea level) until you have acclimatised, as you and your baby are at risk of altitude sickness.

Contraindications

All pregnant women can participate in physical activity throughout pregnancy with the exception of those who have contraindications (listed below). Women with absolute contraindications may continue their usual activities of daily living but should not participate in more strenuous activities. Women with relative contraindications should discuss the advantages and disadvantages of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity with their obstetric care provider prior to participation.

Absolute contraindications to exercise are the following:

  • ruptured membranes,
  • premature labour,
  • unexplained persistent vaginal bleeding,
  • placenta previa after 28 weeks gestation,
  • preeclampsia,
  • incompetent cervix,
  • intrauterine growth restriction,
  • high-order multiple pregnancy (e.g., triplets),
  • uncontrolled Type I diabetes,
  • uncontrolled hypertension,
  • uncontrolled thyroid disease,
  • other serious cardiovascular, respiratory or systemic disorder.

Relative contraindications to exercise are the following:

  • recurrent pregnancy loss,
  • gestational hypertension,
  • a history of spontaneous preterm birth,
  • mild/moderate cardiovascular or respiratory disease,
  • symptomatic anaemia,
  • malnutrition,
  • eating disorder,
  • twin pregnancy after the 28th week,
  • other significant medical conditions.

Useful Resources

Sport England Logo
Active Partnerships
Youth Sport Trust
Public Health Northamptonshire
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