The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends 30 minutes of daily exercise for pregnant women, if you get the OK from your doctor, because it has been shown to reduce complications during pregnancy and beyond. "It can decrease the risk of gestational diabetes as well as decrease risks of having a cesarean section," says Sheri Puffer, MD, an OB/GYN at Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital. "It also sets up a routine for when you have a new baby and need to continue to exercise to return to your pre-pregnancy weight or possibly less." But how are you supposed to workout when you feel nauseated, exhausted, and you have to pee every two seconds? We outline the most irksome pregnancy exercise hurdles, so you can kick them in the butt!
The hurdle: It's hard to even contemplate an exercise video when a bad bout of morning sickness means you can barely make it from the bathroom to the couch.
How to clear it: Mireille Truong, MD, of Columbia Doctors in New York City advises pregnant women to modify their schedule "so you don't exercise first thing in morning," when morning sickness is often—as the name suggests—at its worst. If working out first thing is your only option, there are a few ways to ease the quease, like taking a vitamin B6 supplement, eating a bland breakfast, and munching on crackers when you first wake up.
The hurdle: Sleepiness is keeping you zonked out instead of working out.
How to clear it: This is one of those catch-22s. "Exercising will actually help fatigue in pregnancy and keep your body in shape for delivery," Puffer says. So while you may have to modify your exercise routine, like taking a brisk walk to keep you sprightly, know that any little bit you do will make future workouts even easier.
A Full Bladder
The hurdle: Many pregnant women feel like they always have to go to the bathroom because, especially in the third trimester, the uterus is pushing against the bladder, Truong explains.
How to clear it: "Empty your bladder right before you do any activity," Truong suggests. She also recommends planning ahead so you know where you can stop to use the bathroom during a walk or run. Some women may find a pregnancy girdle helpful since it can provide added support, lifting the belly off the bladder.
Choosing a Safe Workout
The hurdle: If your pregnancy is not considered high risk, you can keep doing the types of activities you did before you became pregnant. But there are some things you should steer clear of once you are exercising for two.
How to clear it: "Avoid lying supine for extended periods of time after the first trimester, as this can compress your vena cava, which can make you feel nauseated and can decrease blood flow to your uterus," Puffer says. "Avoid exercises with a high risk of falling, such as horseback riding and skiing, as well as high-risk of abdominal trauma, such as football, soccer, and basketball. Scuba diving is to be avoided during pregnancy as well."
Not Knowing Where to Start
The hurdle: Sometimes it's unclear where to even begin when it comes to staying fit while expecting.
How to clear it: "If you have not been very active outside of pregnancy, I recommend daily walking, elliptical, or swimming," Puffer says. It's also important to wear appropriate footwear for balance and stretch before you workout. "There's a lot of prenatal exercise classes, like prenatal yoga, and aquatic classes that are more gentle and tailored to pregnant women," Truong adds.
Pushing Too Hard
The hurdle: There's much talk about not pushing yourself too hard during a pregnancy workout—but just how hard is too hard?
How to clear it: As a general rule, "you shouldn't do more exercise than you normally would be doing [if you weren't pregnant]," Truong says. In other words, if you've never done high intensity interval training before, now is not the time to start. Warning signs that you've overdone it are feeling faint, nauseated, and short of breath. Premature contractions, bleeding, and fluid leakage are also troublesome, and you should contact your doctor immediately if they happen. "Staying well hydrated is very important and you will need to drink more water while exercising while pregnant," Puffer adds. Adequate nutrition is also key to being able to maintain an exercise regimen throughout your pregnancy.