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Exercise and Pregnancy: Guidelines

The following is a summary of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists' revised guidelines for exercising while pregnant (from Obstetrics & Gynecology 2002; 99: 171-173).

In the absence of contraindications (see below), pregnant women are encouraged to engage in 30 minutes or more of moderate exercise a day on most, if not all, days of the week. As always, check with your doctor before beginning an exercise program.

After the first trimester, pregnant women should avoid supine (on your back) positions during exercise. Motionless standing should be avoided as well.

Participation in a wide range of recreational activities appears to be safe. However, activities with a high risk for falling or abdominal trauma should be avoided during pregnancy, such as ice hockey, soccer, basketball, gymnastics, horseback riding, downhill skiing and vigorous racquet sports.

Scuba diving should be avoided throughout pregnancy.

Exertion at altitudes of up to 6,000 feet appears to be safe; however, engaging in physical activities at higher altitudes carries various risks.

Absolute Contraindications to Aerobic Exercise During Pregnancy

Hemodynamically (pertaining to the movements involved in circulation of the blood) significant heart disease
Restrictive lung disease
Incompetent cervix/cerclage
Multiple gestation at risk for premature labor
Persistent second- or third-trimester bleeding
Placenta previa after 26 weeks of gestation
Premature labor during the current pregnancy
Ruptured membranes
Preeclampsia/pregnancy-induced hypertension

Warning Signs to Stop Exercising and Call Your Doctor

Vaginal bleeding
Dyspnea (difficult or labored breathing) prior to exertion
Chest pain
Muscle weakness
Calf pain or swelling
Preterm labor
Decreased fetal movement
Amniotic fluid leakage

For more information see: Pregnancy and Exercise: Mayo Clinic