Exercising While Pregnant: A Guide for the First TrimesterJan 10, 2023
by Stephanie Larson
As soon as you find out you're pregnant, you'll probably have a lot of questions about what you should and shouldn’t do to stay healthy and ensure the best possible outcome for your baby. One of the most common questions people have is “Can I exercise during the first trimester?”
Let me reassure you that just because you’re pregnant, it doesn’t make you fragile. Healthy pregnant women and pregnant individuals are encouraged to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise every week. Make time to move your body for part of each day. The first trimester is considered a critical time for the development of your baby, and it's natural to be cautious about any activities that might affect their growth and development. However, exercise during the first trimester is generally considered safe and beneficial. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), “If you are healthy and your pregnancy is normal, it is safe to continue or start regular physical activity. Physical activity does not increase your risk of miscarriage, low birth weight, or early delivery.”
If you were regularly active before getting pregnant, it's generally safe to continue your current routine, even if it is intensive. You can still dance, play sports, or run marathons, for example. You’ll need to be aware that you may be more flexible, due to the hormone relaxin that increases during pregnancy, and makes your ligaments more stretchy. Take care not to hyperextend your joints. You may wish to avoid any exercises that are inherently dangerous, such as contact sports and activities that could put you at risk of falling, such as downhill skiing. If you have an accident and get injured, your baby might also be affected.
If you weren't regularly active before becoming pregnant, it's important to start slowly and build up gradually. Light exercises such as going for a brisk walk or swimming for short periods can help to improve your cardiovascular fitness and boost your energy levels. Low-impact exercise, such as dancing, is also a good choice. Look for classes that are specifically for pregnancy, such as Dancing For Birth class. Avoid high-impact exercises such as running, if you didn’t do them prior to pregnancy.
Some of the precautions you should take when you exercise during your first trimester include being careful to not get overheated, as your body has a harder time regulating its temperature during pregnancy. It's also crucial to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, especially if you're exercising in hot weather. Avoid any exercises that cause shortness of breath or make it hard to talk. If you feel dizzy or have pain, stop and call your care provider.
Keep in mind that you don't have to be as active as you were before you were pregnant. Your body is going through a lot of changes, and you may feel more tired than usual. It's important to listen to your body and not push yourself too hard. During the first trimester, you are creating an entirely new organ—your placenta, which will provide your baby with oxygen and nutrients through the umbilical cord. At full size, the placenta will be about as big as a dinner plate. That is no small feat! Growing it can use a lot of your energy. If you’re feeling really fatigued in the first trimester, don’t worry that this will continue your whole pregnancy. It usually diminishes during the second semester. So give yourself permission to take naps and sleep more.
Regular prenatal exercise can help to improve your overall health, reduce stress, and prepare your body for the demands of pregnancy and childbirth. So enjoy your favorite fitness activities during your first trimester and throughout pregnancy. It's a good idea to speak with your healthcare provider before starting any exercise program and if you have any concerns.