As if the challenges of pregnancy weren't daunting enough—eating well, getting enough rest, and taking extra special care of yourself—just carrying a baby during the winter months can be a job all unto itself. Activities you may have engaged in without much hesitation before you were expecting, like shoveling snow or going sledding, now have you questioning their safety (and necessity!).
Play it Safe
Women who were active prior to pregnancy should, barring any pregnancy-related complications, continue to enjoy most leisure sports and activities. "I recommend that my fit, pregnant patients take a commonsense approach to exercise in pregnancy—don't overheat, overdo, or push yourself like you would if you weren't pregnant," says Dr. Heidi S. Angle, MD, of Newton-Wellesley Hospital's Obstetrics and Gynecology, PC, in Massachusetts.
Dr. Andrew Green, MD, of Minnesota's Fairview Lakeville Clinic concurs. "There is evidence that women who continue to exercise during their pregnancy avoid excessive weight gain, reduce the risk of gestational diabetes, and have better labors."
Activities, however, that should be avoided during pregnancy include downhill skiing, hockey, or sledding, which put pregnant women at risk of falling or experiencing abdominal trauma.
"Most doctors would be OK with a high-level skier or skater continuing to do low-level skiing or skating in the first or early second trimesters [because there is a low risk of falling], but would discourage beginners or even intermediate-level participants," says Dr. Green.
Once out of their first trimester, Dr. Angle says pregnant women should limit any activity during which they are flat on their backs, "because at that point, the weight of the uterus can put pressure on blood vessels supplying the uterus and fetus." Such activities include some yoga and Pilates positions, weight bench work, and aerobic/floor exercises.
For those women considering taking up a new sport this season, Dr. Steven I. Valfer, MD, of Rush North Shore Medical Center in Illinois, advises holding off until after delivery. Instead, Dr. Valfer suggests moms-to-be stick to their normal workout routines and "drink extra fluids while exercising, be careful that they don't become dehydrated (which can cause contractions), and monitor their heart rate to be sure that it stays below 140."