Is it safe to exercise during pregnancy?

Is it safe to exercise during pregnancy?

One of the biggest questions I get asked is: is it safe to exercise during pregnancy?

So, is it safe? The overall answer is yes and there are so many benefits, but there are some exceptions for when you should stop.

What are the benefits of exercising during pregnancy?

  • Improve sleep
  • Boost energy and mood
  • Ease back and pelvic pain
  • Improve muscle tone and strength
  • Reduce excessive weight gain
  • Increases blood flow and nutrients to baby
  • More comfortable pregnancy

Top tips for working out in pregnancy

  1. Make sure you’re hydrated before, during and after exercise
  2. Eat before exercising and have a snack handy in case you need it
  3. Have plenty of rests to cool down, remove layers of clothing and have a window open if needed
  4. Stay in an RPE (rate of perceived exhaustion) of 4-6 (think of 0 as relaxed on the sofa and 10 as finishing a marathon)
  5. Do a talk test while you’re working out, you want to make sure you can still hold a conversation while exercising. If you can’t, you’re working a bit too hard and should slow it down or have a rest
  6. Speak to a qualified specialist, either a pre & postnatal personal trainer or women’s health physio about what exercise is best for you
  7. Follow a specific pregnancy exercise plan, everything will have been designed specifically for pregnancy and taken care for you!

When should you stop exercising?

Below you’ll find three lists of reasons why you should stop exercising and seek advice and/or clearance from your midwife or obstetrician before exercising. It’s really important to be aware of these and seek that advice if you have any of the following, everyone is there to help and support you to have the safest pregnancy.

Stop exercise

Contact a midwife and stop exercising

  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Dyspnoea before exertion
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Chest pain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Calf pain or swelling (need to rule out thrombophlebitis)
  • Preterm labour
  • Decreased fetal movement
  • Amniotic fluid leakage


Don’t start exercising unless cleared by midwife or obstetrician

  • Haemodynamically significant heart disease
  • Restrictive lung disease
  • Incompetent cervix/cerclage
  • Multiple gestation at risk for premature labour
  • Persistent second or third trimester bleeding
  • Placenta praevia after 26 weeks gestation
  • Premature labour during the current pregnancy
  • Ruptured membranes
  • Pregnancy induced hypertension

Relative contradiction 

Talk to your midwife before starting exercise

  • Severe anaemia
  • Unevaluated maternal cardiac arrhythmia
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Poorly controlled type I diabetes
  • Extreme morbid obesity
  • Extreme underweight (body mass index <12)
  • History of extremely sedentary lifestyle
  • Intrauterine growth restriction in current pregnancy
  • Poorly controlled hypertension/pre-eclampsia
  • Orthopaedic limitations
  • Poorly controlled seizure disorder
  • Poorly controlled thyroid disease
  • Heavy smoker

How often should you check back?

Things can change throughout pregnancy so it’s worth checking back with these lists throughout so that you can be safe exercising. It may mean you are safe to exercise throughout, you may need to modify or you may need to stop exercising completely. The main thing is you and your baby are happy and healthy. Always take professional advice and remember they have your best interests at heart.

If you want to find out more about exercising during pregnancy you can download your free copy of my how-to safely adapt exercise during pregnancy guide here and know what to do trimester by trimester.

Lucy is a pre & postnatal corrective exercise specialist and mum. She is on a mission to empower, educate and inspire women during pregnancy and motherhood to feel fit, healthy and body confident.

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