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Now that we’ve told you how important it is to exercise during pregnancy, we’re going to give you a little bit of mental whiplash and provide a long list of caveats that will help you do it safely. Try not to be too intimidated by this list; it’s provided out of an abundance of precaution. Just familiarize yourself with these risks and do all you can to address them.

    1. Keep cool. Ideally, you’ll want to avoid anything that raises your body temperature more than 1.5 degrees, which can cause blood to be shifted away from the uterus towards the skin as the body attempts to cool itself off. Obviously you’re not going to be jogging with a thermometer in your mouth, but avoid outdoor exercise on really hot days. Also avoid exercise in extreme humidity or when suffering from a fever.

    1. Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration and overheating. Start drinking BEFORE you work out. If you wait until you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.

    1. After the first trimester (around the 4th month), avoid exercises that involve lying on your back. This can cause the uterus to compress major blood vessels, thus constricting the blood supply to your baby.

    1. Full sit-ups or double leg lifts pull on the abdomen, so you may want to avoid these throughout your pregnancy. Same for any activity that requires bending over backward (“bridging”) or other contortions and/or deep stretches.

    1. DO NOT engage in contact sports during pregnancy (football, hockey, basketball, soccer, etc.) and avoid any activity that comes with a significant risk of falling or a collision (such as skiing or roller-skating).

    2. Avoid working out on slopes, since the growing belly underneath you can distort your sense of balance. Pay close attention to changes in balance and mobility, and never push yourself beyond your comfort level.

    3. No scuba diving, which can give your baby decompression sickness. You should also avoid skydiving.

    4. Avoid exercises that involve sudden bouncing, jerking, or changes in direction.

    5. It’s okay to exercise until you’re fatigued, but not exhausted. Adjust your exercise routines to your changing body and don’t push the limit.

    6. Be sure to work out in well-ventilated spaces.

    7. Monitor your heart rate to prevent over-exertion, or simply maintain a conversation. If you don’t have a partner, go ahead and periodically talk to yourself. (If anyone stumbles across this scene, you can always blame it on pregnancy brain.) So long as you can continue to carry on a conversation, you should be well within the acceptable range. If you find it difficult to keep up a conversation, you’re likely over-exerting yourself, and should tone it down a little.

    8. Unless you’re already living at high altitudes, avoid any activity that takes you up more than 6000 feet.

    9. Above all, check with your doctor prior to exercise, just to make sure you’re in the clear. Most doctors will recommend you stick with your regular exercise routine unless there are other complications.

When pregnant women should stop exercising

Pregnant women should stop exercising and call their doctor immediately if they experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Pain anywhere on your body
  • Dizziness or faintness (feeling lightheaded)
  • Excessive shortness of breath
  • Very rapid heartbeat
  • Chest pain
  • A sudden headache
  • Muscle weakness
  • Difficulty walking or loss of muscle control
  • Increased swelling of hands, feet, ankles, or face
  • Calf pain or swelling
  • Cramps or a stitch that doesn’t go away
  • Uterine contractions
  • Bleeding or fluid discharge
  • And if you’re beyond the 28th week, a slowing down or total absence of fetal movement.


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