16 Exercises To Avoid During Pregnancy & Tips From Experts

Written by Charushila Biswas, MSc (Biotechnology), ISSA Certified Fitness Nutritionist

For a healthy pregnancy and baby, regular exercising is recommended (1). But, there are some exercises to avoid during pregnancy as they are unsafe. Board-certified women’s health physical therapist Sara Reardon (PT, DPT, WCS) says, “Women who are more active and exercise regularly during pregnancy have easier labor and delivery, decreased pain during pregnancy, decreased constipation, better sleep, decreased risk of postpartum depression, and healthier babies.”

However, there are a few exercises that must be avoided. “Any exercise that increases pressure on the lower abdomen and pelvis could cause harm to the uterus or fetus,” points out NASM-certified personal trainer, John Gardner. This post tells you about the exercises to avoid during pregnancy, safe exercises, and exercise tips from experts. Read on!

16 Exercises To Avoid During Pregnancy

If you exercised regularly before pregnancy and did HIIT and CrossFit, Reardon advises modifying the workout routine. She says, “Modify your core exercise regimen to accommodate changes in the body and the growing baby. I recommend avoiding lying on your back for an extended period of time after 20 weeks of pregnancy.”

Gardner reiterates the same. “HIIT workouts should be avoided as they add too much strain on the joints, have an increased risk of injury, or could easily lead a pregnant woman to feel unbalanced and fall. The rapid heart rate can also be harmful to both you and the baby. Any exercises that increase pressure on the lower abdomen and pelvis could cause harm to the uterus or fetus such as knee bends, sit-ups, and many other abs can also lead to abdominal injuries and put the baby at risk,” he says.

Sandra Calva, personal trainer, mentions, “During pregnancy and immediately after pregnancy you want to avoid jumping exercises, balance exercise, and exercises such as abdominal crunches that can place either risk to mum bearing baby OR strain on the linea alba, which is the line that runs down the center of the rectus abdominals, which becomes stretched and in some cases torn when giving birth.”

Brian Paonessa, fitness trainer, advises, “It’s best to avoid exercises that need you to lie flat on your back for a lengthy amount of time after the fourth month since the weight of your expanding uterus might cause blood vessels in your lower back and abdomen to get compressed.”

Here are 16 exercises to avoid if you are pregnant:

  1. HIIT
  2. CrossFit training
  3. Plank and plank modifications
  4. Crunches
  5. Sit-ups
  6. Bicycle crunches
  7. Mountain climbers
  8. Ball throws
  9. Push-ups
  10. Burpees
  11. Squat jumps
  12. Rope jumps
  13. Jumping jacks
  14. Double leg lifts
  15. Isometric exercises
  16. Balance exercises

Brian also suggests, “Pregnant women should avoid any activity or environment that elevates their body temperature by more than 1.5 degrees F. This causes blood to be diverted from the uterus and to the skin as the body tries to cool down. That includes avoiding hot baths, saunas, and steam rooms.”

Apart from avoiding these high-risk exercises, there can be circumstances when the doctor may ask you to avoid exercising at all during pregnancy.

Who Should Avoid Exercising During Pregnancy?

Anyone starting exercise during pregnancy should get the go-ahead from their doctor. As a general rule of thumb, anyone with health conditions, such as hypermobility, diabetes, heart conditions, etc., should always seek professional advice and guidance before exercising during pregnancy. It is because the exercises and routine have to be adapted and modified as per your health condition.

However, Reardon warns, “In some instances, some women should avoid pregnancy if they are placed on pelvic rest by their medical provider, experience bleeding pain or dizziness, or have a medical condition like an incompetent cervix.”

It is also important to listen to your body and be aware of pain or discomfort while exercising. The following section lists a few symptoms to look out for while exercising to know when to stop before any further damage.

Warning Signs To Look Out For

Seek the help of a pelvic floor physical therapist or stop altogether if you experience:

  • Pelvic pain
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Bleeding of any kind
  • Abdominal bulging or separation
  • Pelvic heaviness or pressure
  • Dizziness or feeling lightheaded
  • Overheating
  • Nausea
  • Serious lack of energy

“It’s often recommend to use the “talk test” to help guide your intensity level during exercise. You should be able to continue a light conversation and talk when exercising. If you feel lightheaded, dizzy, or unstable, you will want to stop and contact your medical provider,” advises Sara Reardon.

Your main focus should be to do exercises that are safe for you and your baby. Unless your doctor asks you to be on rest completely, you can do the following pregnancy-safe exercises.

Safe Exercises During Pregnancy

  • Walking
  • Yoga (Malasana, Cat and Cow Pose, and Supine twist)
  • Pelvic floor exercises
  • Breathing exercises
  • Elliptical training
  • Jogging (after consulting your doctor)
  • Supervised light weight-bearing exercises
  • Supervised exercises with the gym ball

Reardon shares more details about exercising safely and says, “During the third trimester, a lot of emphasis can be put on relaxation exercises such as walking or yoga, specifically cow’s pose, cat pose, and child’s pose. These yoga poses are great for stretching the back and hips and helping to prepare your pelvis for birth.

A child’s pose is a great modification for a deep squat which helps stretch the perineum to prepare for a vaginal birth. A downward-facing dog is excellent for opening up your chest, low back pain, and decreasing hip tightness. I usually recommend a deep squat stretch for the third trimester of pregnancy to stretch the hips, relax the pelvic floor muscles and perineum, all to help prepare for birth. The belief is this helps lengthen the pelvic floor muscles (to help the baby drop down), open up your hip joints to decrease discomfort, and stretch the vaginal opening tissues to prepare for a vaginal delivery.”

Exercising regularly during pregnancy has many benefits, such as easier labor, improved sleep, reduced pain, and healthier babies. However, there are certain exercises to avoid during pregnancy regardless of personal fitness history. For example, contact sports with a high risk of injury or falling, high-intensity exercises, and exercises that put pressure on the lower abdomen or pelvic region should be avoided. It is important to consult your doctor before beginning or continuing an exercise regimen if you have a complicated pregnancy. In addition, if you have certain conditions such as a placenta previa beyond 26 weeks, a shorter cervix, a history of chronic bleeding, or restrictive lung disease, you should refrain from exercising. Get expert instruction from a fitness teacher specializing in pregnant exercises and yoga to get the best advice and help.

Key Takeaways

  • HIIT, crossFit training, and plank modifications are some of the exercises one must avoid while pregnant.
  • Pregnant women with health conditions like hypermobility, diabetes, heart conditions should seek professional advice before exercising.
  • Yoga, pelvic floor exercises, walking, breathing exercises are safe to perform during pregnancy.

References:

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  1. Pregnancy And Exercise
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430821/
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