Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy

March 9, 2017

There are many benefits to exercising during a pregnancy other then looking good and not gaining too much weight. Exercising during your pregnancy can be very beneficial. Not only are there benefits for the mom, but there are several benefits to the baby as well.  


In the early 1980s, Dr James F. Clapp III started research on pregnant women and exercising through their pregnancy and found some very interesting findings.  He was a professor of reproductive biology at Case Western Reserve University and research professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Vermont College of Medicine.  He is now considered the worlds leading authority on exercise during pregnancy and describes all of his findings in his book, "Exercising Through Your Pregnancy." 


Babies born to mothers who exercise during their pregnancy experience increased physical health scores, increased intelligence scores, fewer fetal interventions, fewer pregnancy complications, and improved Nutrient and Waste exchange.  According to Clapp, babies are in better condition and are able to tolerate the stresses of labor and being out of utero better if their mothers exercised during pregnancy.  Across the board, babies are healthier and encounter fewer problems immediately after being born, at one and five years of age. 


Mothers who exercise during their pregnancy experience easier labors. Sign me up!  They experience 35% decrease in need for pain relief during labor because they have already trained their bodies to elicit pain relieving hormones while they were exercising.  Their bodies now see labor as another form of exercise and release catecholamines, endorphins and oxytocin quicker and in a higher quantity than women who have not trained their body in this way. They also experience a 50% decrease in non-surgical interventions and 55% decrease in surgical interventions.  Clapp also reports a 75% decrease in exhaustion during labor and are able to cut the overall length of labor by one-third.  


Mothers also experience fewer pregnancy discomforts such as less weight gain, reduced likelihood of Gestational Diabetes and Preeclampsia (pregnancy induced hypertension).


That all sounds great!  Now all of his research was done on healthy pregnant women, not women with any diagnosed medical condition.  There are cases of when exercising during your pregnancy is not recommended and if you are unsure, please have a conversation with your OBGYN or midwife.  According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), they have specific guidelines for aerobic exercise. Absolute contraindications may include heart disease, restrictive lung disease, incompetent cervix, multiple gestation at risk for premature labor, persistent second or third trimester bleeding, placenta previa after 26 weeks gestation, ruptured membrance or preeclampsia.


With pregnant women who do not have any medical conditions described above, they recommend moderate-intense aerobic activity for 30 minutes, 5 times a week. For the most part, a little bit of exercise every day or every other day can be very beneficial. Different forms of exercise can include tai chi, walking, yoga, pilates, or functional strengthening. A little bit goes a very long way. 


Now, based on all of the research and seeing how many benefits to exercise during your pregnancy, don't you want to do the best for yourself and for your baby?  Lets start breaking the slippery slope of medical interventions during labor and prevent problems before they can start.  



As a Certified Pregnancy and Postpartum Exercise Specialist, I tailor every program for each individual client based on history, need and goals.  I usually include some form of pelvic floor, core and diaphragmatic strengthening, functional training and labor training in each session if applicable. For more questions or interest in starting an exercise program during your pregnancy, please email Christina Trautman, DPT at





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