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Tips for prenatal and postpartum exercise

For healthy pregnant and postpartum women, the recommended amount of exercise is at least 150 minutes per week of activity, such as walking at a brisk pace. This activity should be spread throughout the week and adjusted if needed for medical reasons.

Pregnant women who already exercise at a more intense level, like running or jogging, can continue that activity during pregnancy and the postpartum period, as long as they remain healthy and discuss with their doctor.

Examples of safe and unsafe physical activities during pregnancy

The following activities are safe to do or continue doing:

  • Walking
  • Swimming
  • Stationary cycling
  • Low-impact aerobics
  • Yoga, modified*
  • Running or jogging, if you did them already before becoming pregnant
  • Strength training, if you did this already before becoming pregnant

The following activities should be avoided:

  • Contact sports (i.e. ice hockey, boxing, soccer, and basketball)
  • Activities with a high risk of falling (i.e. downhill snow skiing, water skiing, surfing, off-road cycling, gymnastics, and horseback riding)
  • Scuba diving
  • Sky diving
  • Hhot Yoga" or "hot Pilates," because you want to avoid any risk of hyperthermia

During exercise, pregnant and postpartum women should stay well-hydrated, wear loose-fitting clothing, and avoid high heat and humidity to protect against stress, particularly during the first trimester. Women should also avoid long periods of lying flat on their backs, and stop exercising if they have any of the following warning signs.

Warning signs to discontinue exercise while pregnant

  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Contractions
  • Amniotic fluid leakage
  • Dyspena (shortness of breath) before exertion
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Chest pain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Calf pain or swelling
  • Shortness of breath

Along with discontinuing exercise, call your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms.

Talk test: As long as a woman can carry on a conversation while exercising, she is most likely not over-exerting herself.

Read more here about OSHA Weight Lifting Guidelines.

Postpartum exercise

Resuming exercise or starting new routines after delivery is important to building and maintaining healthy habits.

Hold off on all exercise programs to let your body for 6 weeks postpartum – vaginal and c-section. Remember to attend your 6 week postpartum where you will discuss when to resume your exercise.

Some women are able to do some activity days after giving birth, but it is always best to ask your doctor about exercising before you start/restart any activities.

Regular aerobic exercise in women who are lactating has been shown to improve maternal cardiovascular fitness without affecting milk production, content, or infant growth as long as you're staying extra hydrated. Otherwise, this could affect your milk supply.

Nursing moms should try to feed babies before exercising in order to avoid any discomfort while exercising.

For more information about exercise during pregnancy, visit the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) website.

Source: ACOG

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