Exercise during pregnancy

Exercise during pregnancy helps keep you and your baby healthy, and prepares your body for labour. Find out more about safe exercises in pregnancy.

Pregnancy may seem like a good opportunity to stop exercising and put your feet up, but staying active during pregnancy will boost not only your own health, but also that of your unborn baby.

How much excercise in pregnancy?

For the regular exerciser, it is strongly recommended that you switch to a maintenance programme to ensure the risks don’t outweigh the benefits. Contact sports should be avoided after the first three months, while horse riding, skating, skiing, and cycling are not recommended beyond this point due to the risk of falling. If possible, get some advice from an antenatal exercise specialist who can tailor your programme to your specific needs.

If you don’t normally exercise regularly, this is a good time to start. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists recommends beginning with 15 minutes of continuous exercise three times a week, increasing gradually to 30 minute sessions, from four times a week to daily. The intensity should be sufficient to induce an increase in your heart and breathing rate but you should still be able to maintain a conversation.

Good ways to exercise during pregnancy

There are many forms of safe pregnancy exercise you can try – from pregnancy exercises at home to gym-based classes. Lots of ways you can exercise are free, and there are also many specialist exercise classes for pregnant women. 'Relax, stretch and breathe' and 'Yoga for pregnancy' classes run by NCT are a great way to exercise gently in pregnancy, even if you've not been to regular exercise classes before.

Pelvic floor and abdominal exercises in pregnancy

Looking after and exercising your pelvic floor and your abdominal muscles is really important in pregnancy.

Flexibilty, hormones and pregnancy

When you're pregnant your body produces relaxin – a hormone that makes your ligaments (normally pretty inflexible) stretchy and elastic in preparation for childbirth. In the first trimester you'll have high levels of relaxin and your body continues make the hormone until birth.

The increased stretchiness of your ligaments is what can cause your joints to become looser, so right from early pregnancy you need to be aware that you might be less stable, more prone to twisting an ankle, and more flexible. Being more flexible isn't an excuse to overstretch! You could hurt yourself by overdoing it, so err on the side of caution, and if you're in an exercise class, take the lighter options.

As your bump grows, you'll notice your centre of gravity shifting, and you may become less steady on your feet too.

Staying safe

Follow our pregnancy exercise checklist to make sure that whatever exercise you chose, it is safe and appropriate.

Further information

NCT's helpline offers practical and emotional support in all areas of pregnancy, birth and early parenthood: 0300 330 0700. We also offer antenatal courses which are a great way to find out more about birth, labour and life with a new baby.

Check to see if NCT have any 'Relax, stretch and breathe' or 'Yoga for pregnancy' classes in your area.

The NHS has a site on pregnancy and exercise including tips and suggested excercises.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists have guidelines on recreational excercise and pregnancy

For books and dvds suitable for use during pregnancy please visit the NCT shop.