Emily Skye, heavily pregnant and wearing a pink dress, holds her stomach and smiles.
Phoebe Armfield

Warning signs you should stop exercising when pregnant

Phoebe Armfield

Staying fit, strong and healthy throughout your pregnancy is great news for you and your baby. You’ll both feel the benefits – before and after giving birth.

When you do exercise, pregnancy workout safety should always be your top priority – so you must consult with your doctor before you start working out while pregnant, even if you’re feeling okay. Once you have the green light to go ahead, we’ll be here for you!

That’s right, if you’re looking for safe workouts to do while pregnant, look no further than Emily Skye FIT Pregnancy. It’s designed to keep you moving safely and with good form through each trimester, maintaining your strength and stamina and getting you primed for delivering and looking after your baby.

However, while it is safe to exercise once you have the okay from your doc, there are a number of conditions you could possibly experience during exercise that means it’s time to stop – immediately – and consult your doctor.

Please take action if you experience any of these issues. Here’s what to look out for:

  • Amniotic fluid leakage. Amniotic fluid is the cushiony substance that protects your baby in the womb. It can sometimes leak or, if membranes are ruptured, gush out. (The latter is what happens when your ‘water breaks’.) But with a lot going on down there while you’re pregnant, it can be hard to know which fluid is which. Amniotic fluid will be clear, and may be tinged with white flecks, mucus or blood. It has no odour.
  • Calf pain or swelling. General calf pain or swelling that is the same on both legs is common during pregnancy and not dangerous. However, if it is only in one leg and is red, hot or affects your walking, this may indicate deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
  • Chest pain or tightness, and heart palpitations.
  • Decreased foetal movement.
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness. This can also be the sensation that you’re about to faint (presyncope).
  • Difficult or heavy breathing pre-exercise. If your breathing is laboured before you’ve even started exerting yourself, it is known as pre-exercise dyspnoea – don’t start the workout.
  • Excessive fatigue.
  • Excessive shortness of breath. Rather than monitoring heart rate, health professionals use the Borg Rate of Perceived Exertion scale to measure how hard you are pushing yourself during exercise – during pregnancy, it is recommended that your exertion rate be at 12-14, which means your breathing is at the point where you can still talk, but not sing.
    While it is normal to feel more out of breath in your second and third trimesters, if it becomes excessive and you can no longer carry on a conversation, stop exercising.
  • Muscle weakness. In your later trimesters it’s normal to feel weaker and unable to lift the same weights you did before you were pregnant, but if it noticeably worsens, stop.
  • Pelvic pain.
  • Contractions. If uterine contractions are premature or painful, seek help.
  • Preterm labour. If you go into labour before 37 weeks (with or without contractions).
  • Severe headaches.
  • Overheating. Feeling hot is not in itself a reason to stop exercising, but it can lead to other symptoms. So watch for signs of overheating including dizziness, headaches and dry skin.
  • Vaginal bleeding.

Remember, in any pregnancy workout safety is your top priority. If you experience any of these symptoms during exercise, stop straight away and talk to your doctor or obstetrician as soon as possible.

Always consult your healthcare professional before beginning any new exercise program, as there are some situations where exercise may not be advised. This information should be used as a guide only and should not replace the advice of your medical practitioner.

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Phoebe Armfield
Women’s health physiotherapist

Women’s health physiotherapist Phoebe Armfield has over 15 years’ experience in helping women take control of their bodies into co-designing the FIT Pregnancy and FIT Post-Pregnancy programs with Emily Skye. She holds a Master of Physiotherapy, a Bachelor of Sport and Exercise, is a certified Pilates Instructor (including pre and postnatal Pilates), and Certified Trainer.

Phoebe Armfield
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