Click to Return
Back Back

Search WDH

Find a Provider


Search WDH


Dos (and Don'ts) of Exercising During Pregnancy

By Janet Perkins, MD, obstetrician at Garrison Women’s Health Center and Medical Director for Wentworth-Douglass Hospital's Women and Children’s Center 

Perkins_Janet.jpgMost folks know it’s a good idea to exercise during pregnancy. However, there’s some confusion about which exercises are safe and how much is enough — or too much! 

Believe it or not, the list of “non-recommended” exercises in pregnancy is very short. The best idea is to start by asking, “What do I enjoy doing?” Being pregnant is hard enough without adding another burden to your day. So pick an enjoyable activity that'll move your muscles, get your heart beating and your blood pumping

In that same vein, your body makes about 50% more blood when you are pregnant — more than a 2-liter bottle of soda. While that’s fantastic for the placenta and the baby, it’s a lot of work for your heart pumping extra stuff around. So your exercise routine may naturally make you more breathless or tired. This should not prevent you from keeping active. You may need to modify your routine so that you don’t stress yourself out. No need for a heart monitor; if you're able to talk while exercising, you're not taxing your body or baby too much.

Do you enjoy walking, paddle-boarding, yoga, swimming, or bicycling? Is chatting with friend while jogging or blasting music while on the elliptical your thing? Whatever you choose, exercise is good for many things in pregnancy, including prevention of back pain, boosting your mood, preventing too much weight gain, and better sleep.

Have you ever wondered what happens to babies born to moms who exercise more? They’re thinner, but more muscular. In addition, there's evidence they’re less likely to have health issues, like diabetes or hypertension, later in life. This probably shouldn’t surprise us, though, since we know that moms who exercise throughout pregnancy enjoy less of those health complications as well. 

Even if you haven’t started to exercise before you get pregnant, it's recommended you start as soon as you find out. It’s ok to work up to your goal slowly, so that eventually you are exercising between 40 minutes to one hour on most days of the week. 

So let’s return to that list of “no-no” exercises. As I mentioned, the list is rather short. Deep sea diving is out. So are contact sports where you may get hit in the belly. Any exercise that makes you prone to falling should be avoided for the same reason. These decisions may be based on your skill level at a certain sport. Some may safely keep skiing, and others may decide, “No way!”

Please ask your health care provider specific questions about exercise. Find something you like, and as a famous shoe company says, “Just do it!” You’ll be glad you did.

Janet Perkins is an obstetrician at Garrison Women’s Health Center and the Medical Director for the Women and Children’s Center at Wentworth Douglass Hospital. She has a special interest in fitness in pregnancy, and has no greater professional joy than taking care of both low-risk and high-risk women who are pregnant.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Sign up to receive occasional emails about Wentworth-Douglass news and events.