Pregnancy exercise recommendations continue to change and adapt as more research becomes available, and in the 12 years since I first got certified as a prenatal exercise instructor, I've seen a greater push on exercise for the majority of pregnant women. There are, however, a few exercises to absolutely skip while pregnant, as they can be potentially dangerous to you and your baby. Always speak to your medical professional before beginning an exercise program, and pay attention to our workouts below so you know what to avoid at the gym and outside.
Overheating and dehydration are dangerous during pregnancy, and women need to pay extra attention to their fluid intake, especially during the hot Summer months or when exercising. Hot yoga typically takes place in a room heated around 100ºF, and even with an abundance of fluid and breaks outside of the room, it leads to unnecessary strain for the mom and baby.
Relaxin, a hormone that loosens ligaments to help the body prepare for labor, increases throughout pregnancy, making moms more susceptible to joint injury. Relaxin adds to your flexibility, making it difficult to gauge how far you should reach on certain poses and stretches. Hot yoga will only confuse the body by making your already-looser-than-normal joints more pliable and raising your injury risk to new levels.
Another thing to consider is many hot yoga instructors may not be trained in pregnancy-specific modifications necessary to ensure a safe practice. Bottom line is hot yoga adds no benefits to pregnancy exercise you can't find in a specific prenatal yoga or Pilates class.
Although there is limited research on scuba diving while pregnant with humans, the Divers Alert Network rounded up some studies on animals, and the conclusion falls in line with previous recommendations to avoid scuba diving during this time in your life.
This doesn't mean you should avoid the water completely when there are so many alternatives to scuba diving! Snorkeling, water aerobics, swimming, and water walking are water-based activities providing a reduction in swelling and increased cardiovascular health while putting little to no strain on the mother and baby.
Any sport with a risk of being hit in the abdomen should be avoided during pregnancy. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists list includes basketball, soccer, ice hockey, and boxing. This doesn't mean you can't kick a soccer ball around with a friend or shoot some casual hoops, but steer clear of any intense games that involve slide tackling or fighting for the ball with other team members.
When it comes to a boxing gym or kickboxing class, as long as your instructor/sparring partner knows you are pregnant and adjusts the workout as needed, you should be able to continue with your training. Make sure to pay attention to your joints and muscles, as high-impact exercises should be limited in the second and third trimester due to elevated levels of relaxin in the body.
Skiing, Skating, and Surfing
Sports with a high risk of falling should be avoided during pregnancy, especially during the second and third trimesters. It's not the sport itself that's dangerous, but landing hard or incorrectly can cause serious trauma to the mom and baby. Even professional athletes land incorrectly sometimes, so the average woman should proceed with extreme caution if attempting a sport like skiing, water skiing, skating, or surfing. According to the Mayo Clinic, you could experience contractions, the loss of amniotic fluid, placental abruption (separation of the placenta from the inner wall of the uterus), or a fetomaternal hemorrhage.
What Should You Do Instead?
I always recommend that my clients stay active once cleared for exercise and aim for a combination of cardiovascular exercise and strength training. Prenatal yoga, ellipticals, resistance-band training, walking, and swimming offer women the ability to stay in great shape and keep their babies healthy through the entire pregnancy. Keep in touch with your medical professional, and always cease exercise if you experience bleeding, dizziness, dehydration, or unusual symptoms before or immediately after completing a workout.