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Exercises to Avoid During Pregnancy: What Exercises Are Unsafe?

Exercises to Avoid During Pregnancy: What Exercises Are Unsafe?

There’s a common misconception that pregnant women should avoid exercising or doing any physical activity. But the reality is that exercise is important, and even necessary for pregnant women, though there are some exercises to avoid during pregnancy.

These exercises can not only put the baby’s health at risk but also put the mother at risk of serious injury. So it would be best to consult your doctor regarding any activity that is safe to do.

Before we list down the exercises to avoid during pregnancy, please keep in mind that sometimes, there are absolute contraindications to performing any form of aerobic exercises during pregnancy. For instance, according to the American College of Obstetricians, those with restrictive lung disease, incompetent cervix, placenta previa, and pregnancy induced hypertension, MUST NOT do any aerobic workout. To be safe, consult your doctor first before engaging in your planned physical routine.

Exercises to Avoid During Pregnancy

Here are some types of physical activities and exercises to avoid during pregnancy:

Anything requiring you to lay on your back

These exercises should be avoided for the same reason as you should avoid sleeping on your back while pregnant. This is because the added weight of the baby may compress the inferior vena cava, the major blood vessel which carries venous blood from the lower limbs and pelvic area to the heart.

This, in turn, could trigger high blood pressure, as well as reduced blood flow to the mother’s heart as well as the baby’s. This can be very dangerous and detrimental to the baby’s development as they need a lot of blood for growth and development.

Activities where there’s a risk of falling

This one should be pretty self-explanatory. Any exercises that put you at risk of falling, such as climbing or gymnastics, should be avoided. Other sports such as ice skating or roller skating should also be avoided in the meantime for the same reason.

Any fall, even if it’s not serious for the mother, can be very serious for the developing baby.

Lifting heavy weights

Weight training is actually good exercise for pregnant women. It helps keep women healthy, and regular weight training does not have any significant risk to pregnant women.

However, there is a risk if pregnant women start lifting heavier weights. This is because lifting heavy weights can cause a lot of strain on the cardiovascular system, as well as increases the pressure on the abdomen.

There’s also the risk of injury because the weight of the baby can sometimes put you off balance when you’re lifting weights.

Ideally, pregnant women should lift weights that are around 10-15 pounds or 4.5-6.8kg at most. If you feel that these weights are still too heavy, then go with something lighter.

Contact sports

Contact sports such as football and basketball can cause serious injury because of the physical contact involved. Bumps and collisions may have detrimental effects on your and baby’s development. The trauma could result in preterm labor or abruptio placenta (premature separation of the placenta from the uterus).

“Hot” yoga or “hot” Pilates

Hot yoga and hot Pilates are forms of exercise that reportedly help with weight loss and boost your overall health. While these might be okay to do if you’re not pregnant, these exercises should be avoided during pregnancy.

This is because these exercises increase the body temperature and cause heat exhaustion. In addition, these types of exercises can also pose a risk of dehydration. Both of these things are not good for a pregnant woman. By extension, going to the sauna or hot spas should also be avoided during pregnancy as there is a greater risk of contracting bacteria.

Warning Signs To Terminate Exercise While Pregnant

If you experience any of the following, stop any exercise you’re doing:

  • Amniotic fluid leakage
  • Decreased fetal movement
  • Pain in the calf or swelling
  • Muscle weakness
  • Preterm labor
  • Chest pain
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Dyspnea or difficulty breathing before exertion
  • Vaginal bleeding

Key Takeaways

Exercising during pregnancy is not bad for pregnant mothers, nor their babies. In fact, doctors recommend that pregnant women engage in exercise even during their pregnancy as it helps keep them fit and healthy, and prepares them for childbirth.

Learn more about Being Pregnant here.

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Sources

Exercise in pregnancy – NHS, https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/keeping-well/exercise/, Accessed February 22, 2021

Exercise During Pregnancy | ACOG, https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/exercise-during-pregnancy, Accessed February 22, 2021

Pregnancy and exercise – Better Health Channel, https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/pregnancy-and-exercise, Accessed February 22, 2021

Exercises to avoid in pregnancy | Tommy’s, https://www.tommys.org/pregnancy-information/im-pregnant/exercise-in-pregnancy/exercises-avoid-pregnancy, Accessed February 22, 2021

Exercises To Do and Avoid During Pregnancy | HealthEngine Blog, https://healthengine.com.au/info/exercises-to-do-and-avoid-during-pregnancy#C11, Accessed February 22, 2021

Back to basics: avoiding the supine position in pregnancy, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5309362/, Accessed March 22, 2021
Guidelines of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists for exercise during pregnancy and the postpartum period, https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/37/1/6, Accessed March 22, 2021

3 exercises to avoid during pregnancy – and 7 that are safer | Your Pregnancy Matters | UT Southwestern Medical Center, https://utswmed.org/medblog/exercises-avoid-pregnancy/, Accessed February 22, 2021

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Written by Jan Alwyn Batara Updated Jul 05
Medically reviewed by Mary Rani Cadiz, M.D.