What Are the Dangers of Exercising During Pregnancy?

Exercise is essential in pregnancy to keep your body healthy and toned, but some exercise is not appropriate in pregnancy and can cause harm to the mother or the baby. Don’t start any rigorous exercise regime during your pregnancy, and check with your doctor or midwife before you start any new activity. Listen to your body’s warning signals, and stop if you feel too fatigued or that something is wrong.

Dehydration

Dehydration can cause the uterus to contract, which could lead to preterm labor. It’s important to drink plenty of water before, during and after a workout.

Injury

A hormone called relaxin is released during pregnancy, and it causes the ligaments that support your joints to be more mobile. This makes you more prone to injuries, such as sprains. A pregnant woman is also more susceptible to injury, as her growing uterus changes her center of gravity. When this happens, a woman’s balance is harder to maintain, making her more likely to fall. According to the American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG), you should avoid contact sports, as they could result in harm to you or your baby. This includes soccer, ice hockey and basketball. Also avoid any activities that consist of jarring movements or cause you to change direction quickly.

Overheating

Overheating while pregnant can lead to dehydration because of excessive sweating. As your own body temperature increases, it can cause problems with your baby’s development. According to a study published in Journal Watch Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, an increase in the mother’s body temperature, whether caused by fever, a sauna or exercise in the sun, can increase her baby’s risk of neural tube defects threefold. Use caution when exercising in the heat. It is best to exercise in a cool area and to continue to drink often.

Overexertion

The ACOG recommends maintaining only a moderate level of intensity when you exercise so as not to overexert yourself. When exercising, your body naturally sends more blood to the body parts doing the work (usually your legs and arms). This comes at the expense of your major organs, including your uterus, and results in less oxygen and blood flow. If continued for a long period of time, your baby has an increased risk of low birth weight. A good guide is if you can continue to talk while exercising, you are probably not overdoing it.

About this Author

Based in Seattle, Kristina Chamberlain is a freelance health writer. She writes educational material on childbirth and breastfeeding and is currently working on her first book. She holds a master’s degree in midwifery from the University of Washington. Her website maintains a blog about birth, breastfeeding and parenting.