The following guidelines are based on the unique physiological conditions that exist during pregnancy and the postpartum period. They outline general criteria for safety to provide direction to patients in the development of home exercise programs.
- Maternal heart rate should not exceed 140 beats per minute.
- Strenuous activities should not exceed 15 minutes in duration.
- No exercise should be performed in the supine position (lying on back) after the fourth month.
- Avoid exercises that employ the Valsalva maneuver (holding breath while bearing down heavily).
- Caloric intake should be adequate to meet the extra energy needs of pregnancy and of the exercise performed.
- Maternal core temperature should not exceed 38 degrees Centigrade or about 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Pregnancy and Postpartum
- Regular exercise (at least three times per week) is preferable to intermittent activity.
- Competitive activities are discouraged.
- Vigorous exercise should not be done in hot, humid weather or when you’re running a fever.
- Avoid ballistic movements (jerky, bouncy motions).
- Exercise on a wooden floor or a tightly carpeted surface to reduce shock and provide sure footing.
- Avoid deep flexion or tension of joints because of connective tissue laxity. Because of joint instability, avoid activities that require jumping, jarring motions or rapid changes in direction.
- Precede vigorous exercise with five minutes of muscle warm-up. Slow walking or stationary cycling with low resistance can accomplish this.
- Follow your vigorous exercise with a period of gradually declining activity that includes gentle stationary stretching. Because connective tissue laxity increases the risk of joint injury, stretches should not go to the point of maximum resistance.
- Measure heart rate at times of peak activity; do not exceed the target heart rates and time limits established during consultation with your physician or nurse midwife.
- Take care to rise gradually from the floor to avoid a sudden drop in blood pressure and fainting; continue some form of activity involving the legs for a brief period.
- Drink liquids liberally before and after exercise to prevent dehydration. If necessary, interrupt your activity to replenish fluids.
- Women who have led sedentary lifestyles should begin with physical activity of a very low intensity and advance activity levels gradually.
- Stop activity and consult your physician or nurse midwife if any unusual symptoms appear.