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Get Some Exercise, Doctors Tell Pregnant Women

Pregnant? Get up off the couch and exercise, doctors say.
Meghan Leatherman continued Crossfit to stay fit during pregnancy and set personal bests.
Meghan Leatherman continued Crossfit to stay fit during pregnancy and set personal bests.Courtesy of Meghan Leatherman

Women worried that pregnancy is a time to sit still and be careful don’t need to worry, specialist doctors said Monday. In fact, they said, pregnant women need to get up and exercise.

Running, jogging, Pilates and yoga are all fine, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) said in a note to doctors. And a woman’s gynecologist or obstetrician needs to encourage her to exercise, because too many U.S. women are obese, the group said.

"Maintaining a healthy weight is important to overall health at all times, but it becomes a vital sign when a woman is pregnant or planning a pregnancy," said Dr. Patrick Catalano, a Cleveland-based Ob-gyn who helped work up the guidelines.

"Pregnancy should not be looked at as a state of confinement," added Dr. Raul Artal, chairman emeritus of obstetrics and gynecology at St. Louis University, who led the guidelines team.

"In fact, it is an ideal time for lifestyle modification. That is because more than any other time in her life, a pregnant woman has the most available access to medical care and supervision."

Women are told not to gain too much weight during pregnancy for good reasons. Obese moms-to-be have higher rates of miscarriage, premature birth, stillbirth and babies with birth defects.

Yet nearly half of U.S. women gain too much weight while they're pregnant.

Obese pregnant women can suffer heart problems, sleep apnea, gestational diabetes, preeclampsia and blood clots. They are more likely to need cesarean sections and then they are more endangered than healthy weight women because of the higher risk of complications such as infections.

But exercise can be good for keeping weight down and keeping women healthy, ACOG says. Walking is the best form of exercise, they say. Cycling, swimming, and other forms of exercise that a woman is already used to are good bets, AXOG says. Skiing, contact sports and scuba diving aren’t such good ideas, they add.

“After the first trimester of pregnancy, avoid doing any exercises on your back,” the group advises.