Appropriate exercise provides numerous benefits to pregnant women and their developing babies. Women who exercise in the first and second trimester reported that they felt better in the third trimester.
However, not all exercise is equally healthy for moms-to-be, and some are dangerous both to mother and fetus. For example, any sport that involves high impact or a high risk of injury should be avoided at all stages of pregnancy.
Some of these sports are obvious. Kickboxing (including non-contact kickboxing), football (even flag football), soccer, and basketball are contact sports that should be avoided because of the high likelihood of collisions and falls.
Non-contact activities where a fall could cause serious injury or those that involve vigorous up and down motions should be avoided as well. Horseback riding is a good example of this, and many doctors recommend avoiding it at all stages of pregnancy.
In the third trimester, women should avoid any exercise that is too vigorous or puts extreme stress on the joints, because they usually experience less tolerance for weight-bearing activities as the baby grows. The hormone progesterone causes joints to relax, so it is important to be mindful of this as it can make a woman more prone to twisting an ankle, for example.
As pregnancy progresses, a woman’s center of gravity shifts as her uterus grows and her abdomen expands. It is important to be aware of this and realize that certain activities may need to be modified or stopped to account for this.
Talk with your doctor about the appropriate type of activity before starting or changing an exercise routine. Exercise of any kind may not be recommended for women who have high-risk pregnancies.
No matter what activity you are performing, always be aware of the warning signs. Stop exercising if you feel sudden and severe abdominal pain, uterine contractions that continue after the exercise stops, dizziness, or bleeding. Be aware of signs of decreased fetal activity or numbness in any part of your body.
Reviewed by Dr. Jen Lincoln, April 2020
- Exercise has many benefits in pregnancy, but there are some types that should be avoided.
- Anything with a high risk of falling or abdominal trauma should be avoided.
- Joints are weaker in pregnancy, so be sure to take appropriate safety precautions.
- As your pregnancy progresses, you’ll likely need to modify your exercise routine for safety and comfort.