FAQs

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Is it okay to get my heart rate above 140 when I am pregnant?

There is no data showing that women without risk factors should limit exercise intensity or lower their heart rates because of potential adverse effects. The recommendation to keep the heart rate 140 or below has not been the ACOG guideline since 1994!  The actual recommendation is the perceived exertion scale.  This requires that you listen to your own body and adjust your intensity accordingly. Using a 1 to 10 scale, 1 being no effort and 10 being maximal effort, you can gauge how hard you are pushing yourself. Maintaining a 6 to 8 exertion level is a safe way to get an effective workout. At a 6 to 8 level you should be able to carry on a winded conversation. Pregnant women should avoid pushing themselves to exhaustion, staying away from the 9 or 10 level.

Won’t my baby get overheated when I exercise?

The old recommendation said that a woman’s core body temperature should not be raised above 38 degrees Celsius. Research has shown no abnormalities or fetal distress associated with increased body temperature. Women are better able to dissipate heat while they are pregnant as a way to prevent the fetus from getting overheated.

Even so, it is best to wear breathable, loose fitting clothing and avoid exercise in hot, humid environments. As always, staying well hydrated is a must.

Is there anything I can do to stay in shape if I am on bed rest?

Yes, consult with your physician for the specific things that you are allowed and not allowed to do. Walking is one of the best things you can do for yourself, so take advantage of its benefits if you are able. While lying in bed you can do deep belly breathing to maintain abdominal strength. Continue to perform kegels to keep your pelvic floor strong. You can do back exercises using resistance bands to maintain back strength and good posture. Moderate stretching is also a good way to keep your muscles working. Bed rest does not mean that you are doomed to get out of shape.  Make sure that you are listening to your body and not pushing it harder than it wants to be pushed. On the other hand, if you feel like you are able to be more active you may want to increase your activity level. There is little research showing that bed rest is an effective way to prevent miscarriage. There is much research that shows the benefits to you and your baby from staying active, even when in moderation. Listen to your body and stop when it says to stop. Stay active as much as possible when you are feeling well.

How soon can I start exercising again once I have given birth?

Your doctor will probably recommend waiting 6-8 weeks after a cesarean section. For a vaginal delivery you can usually exercise as soon as you are feeling well enough.  Keep in mind these are just recommendations. Regardless of the type of delivery, you can usually start doing kegels, walking, and deep breathing for abdominal rehab within the first week. If you still feel like you need more time to rest after your doctor gives you the okay to work-out, it may be that your body needs more time recover. Always listen to your own body.

Do I have to lower my exercise intensity when I get pregnant?

The general rule of pregnancy exercise is that you can maintain your pre-pregnancy fitness routine, but you should not do much to exceed it or add much more on to it. For example, if you were not a runner before you got pregnant this is not the time in your life to take up running.  As your pregnancy progresses, you will naturally decrease your intensity level. That is why it is so important to begin exercising before your pregnancy so you can maintain a higher fitness level while you are pregnant. Even if you had not been exercising before your pregnancy it does not mean that you can’t begin. You can start by walking, swimming, stretching, and doing kegels, as well as moderate cardiovascular exercise and resistance training.

Can I exercise if I am pregnant with twins or triplets?

Yes, if you have spoken to your doctor and do not have any other contraindications, you can maintain a moderate exercise program with some modifications. Many doctors may give conservative recommendations for pregnancy exercise or might not be up-to-date on current research and guidelines. Never be afraid to get a second opinion and do you own research.

Should I wait until the 2nd trimester to begin exercising to reduce the risk of miscarriage?

There is no increased incidence of spontaneous abortion, infertility, or abnormalities in women who continued exercising through conception and the 1st trimester. Studies show that women can maintain or even improve their fitness during pregnancy without having any adverse effects on fetal growth. The benefits you and your baby will receive from a well-designed exercise program far outweigh any risk.

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