Please note: This information was current at the time of publication but now may be out of date. This handout provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit, the AAFP patient education website.

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Am Fam Physician. 2003;68(6):1168

Is it safe for me to exercise during pregnancy?

It is probably safe, but you should check with your doctor first. Although some questions have been asked about the effects of exercise on pregnant women, there is no proof that gentle exercise has any bad effects on pregnancy. Gentle exercise might help you feel better and maintain your weight. If you have no serious medical problems and you have an uncomplicated pregnancy, it is probably safe for you to do some exercising.

How should I start an exercise program?

Check with your doctor before starting any exercise program. You may have a medical problem that would make exercise harmful to you or your baby. If your doctor approves, you can start exercising at a level that does not cause pain, shortness of breath, or excessive tiredness. You may then slowly increase your activity.

If you have already been exercising, it is easier to keep exercising during pregnancy. Many women find that they need to slow down their pace of exercise during pregnancy when they are short of breath or tired.

What types of exercise are best?

The best exercises to do when pregnant are those that do not require your body to bear extra weight. Swimming and stationary cycling can be continued throughout pregnancy. Walking and low-impact aerobics are usually well tolerated. You and your doctor will need to decide what is best for you and your baby.

What should I be careful about?

Be careful to avoid activities that increase your risk of falls or injury, such as contact sports or vigorous sports. Even mild injuries to the stomach area can be serious when you are pregnant. After the first three months of pregnancy, it is best to avoid exercising while lying on your back, because the weight of the baby may interfere with blood circulation. It is also best to avoid long periods of standing.

When the weather is hot, exercise in the early morning or late evening to help you avoid getting overheated. If you are exercising indoors, make sure the room has enough ventilation. Consider using a fan to help keep yourself cool. Drink plenty of fluids, even if you do not feel thirsty.

Make sure that you are eating a well-balanced diet. Normally, pregnancy increases your food requirements by 300 calories a day, even without exercise.

What problems should I tell my doctor about?

  • Blood or fluid coming from your vagina

  • Sudden or severe abdominal or vaginal pain

  • Contractions or cramps that go on for 30 minutes after you stop exercising

  • Chest pain

  • Shortness of breath

  • Headache that is severe or will not go away

  • Dizziness

  • Dim or blurry vision

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