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.
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 performed in hot, humid weather or during a period of febrile illness.
- Ballistic movements (jerky, bouncy motions) should be avoided. Exercise should be done on a wooden floor or tightly carpeted surface to reduce shock and provide sure footing.
- Deep flexion or extension of joints should be avoided because of connective tissue laxity. Activities that require jumping, jarring motions or rapid changes in direction should be avoided because of joint instability.
- Vigorous exercise should be preceded by five minutes of muscle warm-up. You can accomplish this by slow walking or stationary cycling with low resistance.
- Vigorous exercise should be followed by a period of gradually declining activity that includes gentle stationary stretching. Because connective tissue laxity increases the risk of joint injury, stretches should not be taken to the point of maximum resistance.
- Your heart rate should be measured at times of peak activity. Target heart rates and limits established in consultation with your physician or nurse midwife should not be exceeded.
- Care should be taken to gradually rise from the floor to avoid orthostatic hypotension. Some form of activity involving the legs should be continued for a brief period.
- Liquids should be taken liberally before and after exercise to prevent dehydration. If necessary, activity should be interrupted to replenish fluids.
- Women who have led sedentary lifestyles should begin with physical activity of very low intensity and advance activity levels very gradually.
- If any unusual symptoms appear, stop the activity and consult with your physician or nurse midwife.