It’s common for people to read conflicting information about exercise in pregnancy. Even apps that are designed for pregnant people can provide misleading information. Sometimes doctors may discount the importance of exercise which can leave patients feeling confused about the benefits. Many people avoid exercise in pregnancy or reduce their exercise over time for fear that exercise will harm the baby or cause other side effects like urinary incontinence. In almost every scenario, choosing exercise will help support your baby’s health as well as yours. Even side effects like urinary incontinence are not significantly worse in people who choose to exercise during pregnancy.
Benefits of Exercise in Pregnancy
- Less postpartum depression and better overall mental health.
- Less cesarian birth and less interventions used during labour
- Less gestational weight gain and a lower risk of gestational diabetes
- Less blood pressure changes or other high risk health changes that can occur in pregnancy
- Less newborn complications
How Much Should I Exercise?
The guidelines in Canada are a minimum of 150 minutes per week spread over at least 3 days of moderate-intensity activity. Ideally, daily exercise or movement of some kind is better.
What Kind of Exercise?
You can choose whichever movement you like. Strength training, walking and other forms of cardiovascular exercise all show a similar level of benefit, although there might be additional benefit to a mixture of aerobic and resistance training.
If you have not been active prior to pregnancy, then the above guidelines are a good place to start. Broken down, that guideline can look like ~20 minutes of walking every day on top of your activities of daily living or 30 minutes of walking a few days per week.
If you’ve been active prior to conception, then your regular exercise regimen is typically fine to continue with – strength training, running, swimming, etc. Listen to your body to gauge if intensity or duration needs to be altered as pregnancy does alter how your body allocates resources and there are many physical changes especially in the 2nd and 3rd trimesters.
Ultimately, some exercise is better than none!
Exercise may be contraindicated in certain circumstances (like pre-eclampsia, incompetent cervix, bleeding in the 2nd or 3rd trimester, premature rupture of membranes, premature labour, and more). If your primary healthcare provider has advised you to not exercise, please follow their recommendations.