Is exercising during pregnancy safe?

You may have heard or read something along the lines of;

In the absence of contraindications or health concerns that exercise during pregnancy is not only safe, but beneficial.

But what are those contraindications or health concerns and what does that mean?

By definition, a contraindication is ‘something (a symptom or condition) that makes a particular treatment or procedure inadvisable and potentially harmful.

There are two types of contraindications – absolute and relative.

Absolute contraindications are those which mean most (if not all) types of exercise are a no-go.

Relative contraindications mean that it may not be advisable to participate in most (if not all) forms of exercise, without specific medical clearance and guidance on what is suitable.

It is important that you have medical clearance before commencing/continuing any exercise program during pregnancy, particularly if you have any complications.

The 2019 Canadian Guidelines for Physical Activity During Pregnancy (and I like these as they are currently the most up to date) list contraindications as;



So if any of these apply to you, it is an absolute must that you talk to your care provider if you are considering doing physical activity.

What sort of exercise is suitable during pregnancy?

This all depends. It depends on how physically active you were prior to pregnancy and the types of exercise you are used to doing.  Generally speaking, the following exercises are deemed safe;

  • brisk walking
  • low-impact aerobic/ cardiovascular activities
  • Water aerobics
  • Swimming
  • Suitably modified yoga or pilates
  • Light weight/strength training
  • Specific pregnancy exercise classes
  • Cycling on a stationary bike
  • Running or jogging (if you have previously done these and have clearance from your Doctor to continue)

If you are unsure of the best way to incorporate exercise safely, speak to a qualified pre and postnatal trainer who will be able to guide you.


What exercises are not suitable during pregnancy?

Some form of exercise should be avoided during pregnancy due to the higher risk of injury to Mum, baby or both. These include;

  • Exercising at high temperatures, particularly with high humidity e.g. Bikram Yoga, hot pilates
  • Any activity where there is a risk of falling including off-road cycling, gymnastics, downhill and water-skiing, horse-riding)
  • Activities where the risk of physical contact is high (football, rugby, netball, hockey, boxing)
  • Scuba diving

Other safety precautions to be mindful of include

  • Olympic lifting, especially as your bump grows
  • Exercising at altitude (above 2500m) if you are not acclimatised to it
  • Athletic competition or exercising significantly above the guidelines. If you are accustomed to working at higher levels, it is still a good idea to work with your obstetrician on this (preferably one who has a knowledge of high-intensity exercise)
  • Any exercise where you notice leaking of urine or you feel a heaviness or dragging in your perineum
  • If you notice any bulging through your abdominals (it might look a bit like a Toblerone)
  • Anything that causes you pain or discomfort
  • Lying on your back after 28 weeks

Always make sure you are well-hydrated during exercise and take regular breaks – listen to your body! 

It’s time to stop exercising if;

If you notice any of the following, you need to stop exercising and call your careprovider;

  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Regular painful contractions
  • Swelling/tenderness/pain of the calf
  • Headache
  • Blurred vision
  • Dizziness or Nausea that doesn’t resolve when you rest
  • Amniotic fluid leaking
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath that doesn’t resolve when you rest

Anytime, something doesn’t feel right, stop! Listen to your body and your baby and what they are trying to tell you.

Exercise during pregnancy is safe and beneficial for the majority of women. Always speak to your care provider before you commence an exercise program or if anything changes during your pregnancy.

It is important that you listen to your body and exercise in a manner that takes into consideration the challenges of growing a baby.

Bright Mums and Bumps Pregnancy Exercise Classes help you get the feel-good hit of exercise done in a manner that is safe for you and your baby. To find out more about Bright Mums and Bumps – click here