Yes You Can Exercise During Pregnancy | LMH Health

If you live in or around Douglas County, you’ve probably noticed that Lawrence is a very active community. People of all ages and life stages participate in Red Dog Days, bike rides, runs and walks on the Lawrence Loop, and many other activities. But when you’re pregnant and growing into a new human being, is it safe for you to exercise and live an active life?

Emily Heronemus, DO

“I’ve had people say to me, ‘Does she really have to do this?’ The answer is a resounding yes,” said Emily Heronemus, DO, sports medicine physician at OrthoKansas. “A lot of women think that when you’re pregnant it’s not safe to exercise or that you have to cut back on what you do. Exercise is highly recommended, as long as you don’t experience any complications.

Leslie Underwood, MD, FACOG, physician at Lawrence OB-GYN Specialists agrees. Exercise during pregnancy benefits both mother and baby for a number of reasons.

“Regular exercise reduces the frequency of excessive weight gain, gestational diabetes and postpartum weight retention. And staying active during pregnancy helps relieve back and hip pain, as well as the physical demands of the work,” she said.

When you first find out you’re pregnant, light to moderate exercise is fine in early pregnancy and you don’t need to consult your provider. Dr Heronemus shared that she continued to maintain her exercise routine throughout her pregnancy, having previously been quite active.

“I have a peloton, so I kept riding on it and maintained my aerobic activity. I also did a lot of walking, weightlifting and strength training, as well as Barre classes,” a- she declared.

There are many other activities that you can also safely participate in. Using an elliptical machine, swimming, yoga, and Pilates are great options. If you are in good health and exercised vigorously before pregnancy, including running, you can usually continue your regimen, but you may need to modify it as your body changes. It is important to note that there are a few exceptions.

Leslie Underwood, MD, FACOG

Leslie Underwood, MD, FACOG

“If you participate in potentially high-impact sports or there is a risk of abdominal trauma, discuss this with your provider,” Dr. Underwood said. “Most should be avoided due to risk to pregnancy.”

Exercises to avoid include those where trauma to the abdomen is possible. These include karate, taekwondo, kickboxing, mountain biking and skiing. You should also put hot yoga, hot Pilates, saunas, and hot tubs on the back burner until the labor is over. A body temperature raised to this degree leads to a low risk of birth defects in the first trimester and growth problems in the second and third.

Is there a time when I should completely avoid exercising?

Although exercise is recommended for many pregnant women, the American College of Gynecology (ACOG) has shared some conditions that make it unsafe, including:

  • Heart and lung disease
  • Cerclage – A condition where the cervix has been stitched shut to prevent or delay premature delivery
  • Being pregnant with multiples in cases where there are concerns about premature delivery
  • Placenta previa after 26 weeks – A condition where the placenta covers the opening of the uterus
  • Premature labor or water break
  • Preeclampsia or pregnancy-induced high blood pressure
  • Severe anemia

If you do not have any of these conditions, but do experience pain during pregnancy, the LMH Health Therapy Services team may be able to help. Taylor Grabowski, DPT, is a physical therapist who works with expectant mothers who experience pregnancy-related discomforts.

“A physiotherapist can help you if you have problems like swollen legs and feet; back, hip or pelvic pain; and issues like bladder leakage and constipation,” she said. “We want you to enjoy your pregnancy and we’re here to help.”

Can exercise help you prepare for work?

Taylor Grabowski

Taylor Grabowski, TPD

Exercise can do more than help keep you and your baby healthy, it can also prepare you for the birth experience. Grabowski said one of the things she recommends is walking, walking, walking.

“Walking is simple and a great way to achieve any goal. You get the cardiovascular benefits and feel the increased load on the pelvis and hips due to pregnancy. It helps strengthen the hips and pelvic floor, which helps prepare you for labor,” she said.

Kegel exercises are also great for women, whether pregnant or not. Kegels help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, which support the uterus, bladder, small intestine, and rectum.

“Women have coughing and sneezing issues that contribute to urinary leakage, so applying Kegels can help,” Grabowski said. “In general, that’s what I recommend to everyone.”

What can I do to help me “bounce back” after pregnancy?

Your life changes before and after your baby arrives, and so does your body. It is important to take time to rest after birth and to give yourself time to heal. Although it is recommended to exercise after childbirth, it is important to discuss it with your doctor before starting again.

“People try to jump the gun and their body just isn’t ready for it. When you are allowed to exercise, start slow and progress slowly,” Grabowski said.

Exercises that engage your abdominal muscles can be a good place to start. Lie down and do transition and walking exercises to engage your core. Pilates and yoga are other exercises that help promote good core strength.

“Make sure you adapt your exercise after pregnancy. Don’t go from sitting on the couch and running to trying to run a marathon, either before or after pregnancy,” Dr. Heronemus said. “Start with walking or cycling and gradually build your tolerance. Everyone’s body is different. What’s good for you may not be good for someone else.”

Whatever exercise you choose to do, be sure to listen to your body. Progress slowly and steadily, stop if you have pain or feel dizzy, and call your doctor if you have any questions. LMH Health providers are ready to help you throughout your journey, before and after pregnancy.

Kristen T. Prall