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8 Things Women Should Know About Exercising During Pregnancy

With your doctor's permission, exercise is usually fine during pregnancy.

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You're pregnant. Congratulations! More good news: If you're feeling up for it, physical activity is encouraged — with some caveats.

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I'm a certified personal trainer who specializes in pre/postnatal fitness, so I've talked to a lot of women who are apprehensive about working out while pregnant. To get the best tips for staying active and safe throughout pregnancy, I talked with Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Yale School of Medicine, in New Haven, CT, and Dr. Ashley Roman, associate professor of maternal medicine in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at NYU Langone Health in New York. Read on for their general guidelines. (But again, check with your doctor for the specific recommendations that are related to your health and pregnancy). 💪

1. If you've exercised before your pregnancy, you feel up to it, and you don't have any health reasons not to, you should be able to continue.

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Don't be afraid to stick with your current routine as long as there are no contraindications — although you may need to make some modifications. For example, the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (and other experts) recommend avoiding any moves or exercises where you need to lay on your back, or sports that involve a risk of falling or abdominal injury, such as horseback riding or basketball. They recommend starting slow if you're new to exercise, and keeping activity at a moderate-intensity level.

Read These 31 Pregnant Women Working Out Will Impress The Hell Out Of You to get some inspiration.

2. You usually need to increase your calorie intake, but the amount may vary.

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"Basically, you need about 300 calories a day extra for the pregnancy," says Minkin. Roman adds that this will vary depending on your height, weight, and whether or not you're expecting multiple babies. "Make sure you get in calcium; dairy products are your best source," advises Minkin. "You also want to get in some extra iron. Most women will need some (green leafy vegetables, red meat, raisins), or some iron supplements, if needed."

3. Make sure to drink enough water.

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"It is important to the fetus as you need good hydration to keep a good amount of amniotic fluid around the baby, says Minkin. "Also, blood pressure can fall in the mid-trimester, and if you are not 'well tanked up' with water, your blood pressure can drop further,"

Roman encourages women to drink "eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day as a baseline," and increase the amount if necessary, for example if you work out and need to avoid dehydration and overheating.

This bottle tracks your water intake and reminds you to drink water throughout the day.


4. Don't forget the warm up/cool down to avoid injuries.

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During pregnancy, the body produces hormones, which cause "the ligaments that support your joints to become relaxed," according to The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). "This makes the joints more mobile and at risk of injury." Roman says that stretching will help minimize the risk of injury. But be sure not to overstretch and avoid bouncy or high-impact motions that can increase the risk of injury.

5. Show your pelvic floor some TLC.

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Your pelvic floor muscles act as a hammock supporting your organs, specifically your uterus, bladder, and rectum. Kegel exercises — contracting and relaxing the same muscles used to control the flow of urine — can help strengthen pelvic floor muscles before, during, and after pregnancy.

As your baby continues to grow there is added downward force onto your pelvic floor. According to Minkin, "if the muscles aren't in good shape, the increased abdominal pressure from the baby will push down on the bladder, and you may leak a bit — so kegel away! I encourage everyone to work on their pelvic floor."

Here are 21 Things Anyone With a Vagina Should Know About Kegels.

6. Work your deep core muscles without doing crunches.

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Crunches aren't a good idea during pregnancy (or any move that requires lying on your back.) But you can still aim to strengthen your transverse abdominis, also known as transverse abdominal muscle (TVA), which are deep abdominal muscles on the front and sides of the body. They help stabilize the pelvis, support your back and also help with pushing during delivery.

"Strengthening the TVA will help during labor and with pushing, but it also helps to stabilize the pelvis," Minkin says. She notes that the relaxin hormone, which helps stretch out the pelvis, can result in a bit of laxity that "can be somewhat problematic. Having good abdominal musculature helps stabilize the pelvis."

Crunches may be out, but you can still work your core in other ways during pregnancy. Side planks, squats, kneeling palloff press, and standing crunches are great substitutes.

7. Consider low-impact cardio workouts such as swimming.

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Minkin recommends that women consider swimming as an activity, particularly if they have orthopedic or back issues. "The only time of the day they may feel totally comfortable is in the pool," she says.

Pregnancy can put increased pressure and strain on your joints; specifically your back and knees. And swimming is a great way to get your heart rate up without putting any stress on your joints.

Swimming and water workouts are safe according to the ACOG. "The water supports your weight so you avoid injury and muscle strain," they say "If you find brisk walking difficult because of low back pain, water exercise is a good way to stay active."

Other good activities include walking, stationary cycling or spinning (because of balance issues, this is better than riding a bike), prenatal yoga, and Pilates classes modified for pregnancy, according to ACOG. (But avoid hot yoga due to the risk of overheating, they say.)

Both Minkin and Roman also note the importance of not overheating, which is a sustained increase in core body temperature, as can happen in hot yoga. "You don't want to raise your core body temperature too high," says Minkin. "Like keeping it consistently above 100 degrees or so."

8. Be flexible and adapt workouts as necessary.

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It's important to create a realistic workout plan that meets your needs and lifestyle. It can help to schedule time to exercise to make sure you actually get in the time at the gym or at home. But also keep in mind that if your doctor advises against it, it's best to skip exercise during pregnancy.