Exercise and Weight Gain During Pregnancy

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weight gain during pregnancy
The average woman should gain 25-35 pounds during pregnancy. If you were underweight prior to pregnancy you should gain 28-40 pounds and if you were overweight prior to pregnancy you should gain between 15-25 pounds. If you are carrying twins your weight gain will be greater. Weight gain is for many important functions during pregnancy – you will have an increase in your blood supply to provide circulation and oxygen for your baby. You will need extra fat stored for delivery and breastfeeding. Your uterus will increase in weight and size and you will have a placenta and amniotic fluid. So, much of the weight gain you experience is unrelated to the weight of the baby you will deliver.

Can You Exercise During Pregnancy?
Unless your Obstetrician has told you not to exercise for medical reasons, exercise during pregnancy is safe and beneficial. If you have been exercising regularly you should be able to maintain the same level of activity through your second trimester of pregnancy.

Why Exercise?
Exercising during pregnancy helps build/maintain strong muscles and joints and can help your body cope with the changes it is experiencing. It helps prevent constipation, promotes an easier labor and delivery, and if you maintain exercise after delivery will promote your healing and recovery. You will sleep better if you exercise and are more likely to have healthy weight gain. Exercising also decreases the occurrence and severity of postpartum blues.

How to Begin if You Are Starting From Scratch
First check with your doctor about any limitations or restrictions. Once s/he gives you the green light, start slowly. Begin exercising 3-4 times a week for 30 minutes at a level where your heart rate increases slightly, but is not racing, and where you are not becoming short of breath. As you gain experience and stamina you can increase your activity level.

What Exercises Are Right For You?
If you are already in an exercise routine, continue it. If you are just beginning then pick an activity you enjoy. Some options include yoga, jogging, cycling, walking, swimming, balancing exercises with an exercise ball or Pilates.
If you are using weights you should use light weights only. Heavy weights can be dangerous. You can maximize the benefit of weight training by increasing the number of repetitions.

What Activities Should be Avoided?
Any activity that carries a risk of a high speed fall (skiing, snowboarding, waterskiing, horseback riding) or of impact to your abdomen (hockey, soccer, kickboxing) should be avoided. Scuba diving is out- no going to depth during pregnancy! During your third trimester you will need to avoid lying on your back (this can lower the blood flow to your uterus) so you may need to modify your routine accordingly (side positions for yoga rather than back positions).

Stop Exercising and Call Your Doctor if You Experience:

  1. 1. Vaginal bleeding
  2. 2. Clear fluid leakage from the vagina
  3. 3. Abdominal cramping
  4. 4. Contractions
  5. 5. Chest Pain
  6. 6. Dizziness
  7. 7. Visual Changes – blurry vision, spots or flashes of light
  8. 8. Headaches that do not resolve with rest and acetaminophen
  9. 9. Shortness of breath that does not resolve when exercise ceases

Remember that a healthier, happier you makes for a healthier, happier baby!

-Monique Araya, MD, FAAP

The medical information on this Web site is provided for educational purposes only. The information provided in this site, or through linkages to other sites, is not a substitute for medical or professional care, and you should not use the information in place of a visit, call consultation or the advice of your physician or other healthcare provider.
If you believe you have a medical emergency you should call 911 or your physician immediately. If you have any questions regarding your health or a medical condition, you should promptly consult your physician.