November 23, 2015

ACOG Guidelines Encourage Exercise During Pregnancy

ACOG Guidelines Encourage Exercise During Pregnancy

American Obstetrics and Gynecology guidelines encourage continuing exercise during pregnancy, even in those patients who participate in daily vigorous exercise. It also encourages sedentary women to initiate exercise during pregnancy.

In pregnancy, physical inactivity and excessive weight gain have been recognized as risk factors for certain pregnancy complications, including gestational diabetes mellitus. Some obstetricians and midwives are concerned that regular physical activity during pregnancy may cause miscarriage, poor fetal growth, or premature delivery. For an uncomplicated pregnancy in a healthy woman, these concerns have not been shown to be true.

In the absence of obstetric or medical complications, physical activity in pregnancy is safe and has positive benefits. Healthy pregnant women should be encouraged to continue and even to initiate safe physical activities. In women who have obstetric or medical problems, exercise regimens should be discussed with their OB provider.

Some of the benefits of exercise include a decreased risk for cesarean delivery and a faster  postpartum recovery time. Exercise during pregnancy can also lower glucose levels in women with gestational diabetes and help prevent preeclampsia. Unfortunately, exercise has not been shown to significantly prevent weight gain in both normal and overweight women. Calorie intake is most important for this.

For healthy pregnant women, ACOG guidelines recommend at least 2 1/2 hours per week of moderate aerobic activity (equivalent to brisk walking). This activity should be spread throughout the week. A goal for pregnant woman would be to work up to moderate exercise for at least 20–30 minutes per day on most days of the week. The guidelines advise that pregnant women who were previously very active (running, jogging)can continue their level of activity; if any medical or obstetrics issues arise, they should discuss their level of activity with their OB provider. Certain activities may be dangerous in pregnancy and should be avoided, including intense contact sports, hot yoga, downhill skiing and scuba diving!

So, keep exercising whether light-moderate or vigorous activities. For those who have not been very good at exercising it is certainly safe and important to begin to exercise during the pregnancy.

For additional information see:

Physical activity and exercise during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Committee Opinion No. 650. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Obstet Gynecol 2015;126:e135–42

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Robert M. Weiss, M.D.

Robert M. Weiss, M.D. Board-Certified Reproductive Endocrinologist