While most forms of exercise are beneficial to both a mom and her baby, common sense says that any sport that puts you at a high risk for injury should be avoided. Hockey, horseback riding, soccer, softball, and scuba diving are off limits. Dr. Spetalnick says, "Anything involving a significant dependence on balance that could result in a fall, such as skiing," isn't a good idea.
Even safe sports have their limitations, cautions Richman. "Weight training is OK if you were doing it before, but going lighter as you get further along is a good idea. Crunches are fine until the second trimester; after that, anything flat on your back isn't recommended," she says, since lying on your back can restrict blood flow to the uterus and cause lightheadedness. Richman also reminds moms to stay hydrated since dehydration can cause contractions. Dr. Apgar agrees, "Drinking one pint of liquid before exercising and one cup of liquid every 20 minutes during exercise is sufficient." Both experts say not to wait until you're thirsty to start drinking, because thirst means you're already dehydrated, and to steer clear hot tubs, saunas, and steam rooms which cause excessive water loss and dangerous overheating.
Shea Miller, age 35, kept up her regular visits to the gym during her third pregnancy and says she wished she'd stayed active during her first two. "The first time I got pregnant, I was afraid that anything more strenuous than walking around the mall would cause a miscarriage," she laughs. "My only exercise was lifting a spoon of ice cream or mashed potatoes to my mouth!"
The second time around, Miller already felt overweight and flabby from her first pregnancy and adopted the popular, albeit misguided attitude of, "I'll take it easy now and just work really hard later to take it all off after this baby arrives." That decision left her with a toddler, a baby, 40 pounds of excess weight, and a case of depression. Regular exercise improved both Miller's mental and physical health, so she vowed to become a different kind of mother-to-be next time around. No-contact kickboxing classes, moderate runs outside, long walks on the treadmill while watching television, and fast-paced indoor cycling (spinning) classes kept her spirits up, her body toned, and made for her easiest labor to date. "I could breathe easier, had more energy and less soreness this time. I felt better about my body too because I wasn't pregnant 'all over'—just in the front. And there's something cool about a pregnant woman in workout clothes!"
Easier labors, healthier babies, and a faster return to your pre-pregnancy jeans are all great reasons to keep moving while you're making a baby. But feeling great physically and emotionally are benefits that can't be ignored. So with a little common sense, some tennis shoes, and a jog bra, you can enjoy all the perks that fitness brings, plus that bowl of ice cream later—after your workout!