Can a woman begin an exercise program while pregnant even though she has not exercised prior to her pregnancy?

Pre-natal exercise is highly recommended for any healthy pregnant woman cleared by her doctor at any point during her pregnancy. The repertoire is not designed for weight loss; it is aimed at increasing core strength and flexibility in preparation for birth with particular attention to the pelvic floor and abdominals.
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada (SOGC) along with the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP) “…encourage women with uncomplicated pregnancies in ANY trimester to begin an exercise routine.”

How much exercise is recommended??

The SOGC/CSEP recommend up to 30 minute of cardiovascular fitness up to 4 days a week.

Pilates, Pregnancy and Risks

The SOCG and CSEP state that “recent investigations, focusing on both aerobic and strength conditioning
exercise regimes in pregnancy, have shown no increase in early pregnancy loss, late pregnancy complications,
abnormal fetal growth, or adverse neonatal outcomes…”
In fact, the risk is in NOT exercising.

SOGC/CSEP :  Women and their care providers should consider the risks of NOT
participating in exercise activities during pregnancy, including loss of
muscular and cardiovascular fitness, excessive maternal weight gain,
higher risk of gestational diabetes or pregnancy induced hypertension,
development of varicose veins and deep vein thrombosis, a higher
incidence of physical complaints such as dyspnea or low back pain, and
poor psychological adjustment to the physical changes of pregnancy.

However, there are some contraindications that should never be ignored. Some of these include :

  • Ruptured membranes, premature labour
  • Persistent second or third trimester bleeding/placenta previa
  • Pregnancy-induced hypertension or pre-eclampsia
  • Incompetent cervix
  • Evidence of intrauterine growth restriction
  • High-order pregnancy (e.g., triplets)
  • Uncontrolled Type I diabetes, hypertension or thyroid disease, other serious cardiovascular,respiratory or systemic disorder

Other concerns worth evaluating include :

  • History of spontaneous abortion or premature labour in previous pregnancies
  • Mild/moderate cardiovascular or respiratory disease (e.g., chronic hypertension, asthma)
  • Anemia or iron deficiency? (Hb < 100 g/L)
  • Malnutrition or eating disorder (anorexia, bulimia)
  • Twin pregnancy after 28th week
  • Other significant medical condition

Before starting an exercise program, pregnant woman are requested to fill out the ‘PARmed-X for PREGNANCY’ medical form together will her doctor.