Pregnancy Fitness

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Reasons not to work out while pregnant

Contraindications to Exercise
Medical problems that might restrict your exercise in pregnancy include heart or lung problems, infections, anemia, metabolic diseases, high blood pressure, bleeding, and problems with your cervix. If you have an eating disorder or trouble keeping weight on, your exercise should be limited. Problems with prior pregnancies or history of miscarriages might also impose restrictions on workout activity. Also, high levels of physical activity at work or home can limit exercise.

Reasons Not to Work Out in Pregnancy, as Determined by Your Doctor

  • Medical problems—high blood pressure, breathing problems, thin bones
  • Problems with previous pregnancies—more than three miscarriages, pre-eclampsia, pre-term labor
  • High-risk pregnancy—incompetent cervix, medical complications, high blood pressure, multiples
  • High level of physical activity at work or home
Warning signs to stop exercising completely include bleeding or fluid from the vagina, unusual swelling of the arms or legs, headache, dizziness, light-headedness, stomach pain, back pain, nausea and vomiting, contractions, heart palpitations, and severe shortness of breath. If these symptoms continue after resting for one hour, call your doctor right away.

Warning Signs to Stop Exercising

  • Vaginal fluid leakage or bleeding
  • Unusual swelling of arms or legs
  • Headaches, dizziness, light-headedness
  • Stomach pain, nausea, vomiting
  • Back or pelvic pain
  • Contractions
  • Heart palpitations
  • Being unable to catch your breath
In Summary Remember:
  • Pregnancy is not the time to try to take on a new program, improve your fitness level, or increase your exercise program. Your goal should be to maintain a healthy level of fitness at moderate levels of intensity. After you give birth, this will translate into healthy fitness at higher levels of intensity.
  • You should discuss your exercise program with your doctor and be aware of any special risks or precautions.
  • Remember you need more calories, vitamins, and fluids.
  • Do not allow yourself to overheat.
  • Breathable athletic wear with a supportive bra should be worn. Shoes might have to be bigger than when not pregnant to accommodate for swelling.
Just as pregnancy is a time for growth of a baby, it is a time to preserve and maximize your own health. Regular exercise is an integral part of that, but it should be healthy exercise, not exercise to exhaustion. You should be eating well, including enough calories and a well-balanced diet. You should be in tune with your body and call your doctor if you have any questions or notice strange symptoms. Allow yourself rest if you are feeling tired, sore, or ill. Remember that pregnancy actually improves fitness and metabolic performance; you can maintain your high level of cardiovascular fitness with less exercise.

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More on: Postpartum

excerpted from:

From The Active Woman's Health and Fitness Handbook by Nadya Swedan. Copyright © 2003 by Nadya Swedan. Used by arrangement with Perigee, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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