Exercise During Pregnancy: Let PT Be Your Guide

Exercise Prescription: A Key Component of OB Physical Therapy

As an expectant mother, staying healthy and fit is crucial for both you and your baby. However, navigating exercise during pregnancy can be overwhelming as there is a lot of conflicting information out there. That’s where exercise prescription comes in – it is a personalized exercise plan designed specifically for pregnant women to promote overall health and well-being.

What is an Exercise Prescription?

Exercise prescription is the process of creating a safe, effective, and individualized exercise program based on the client’s medical history, current physical condition, and specific goals. In the context of OB physical therapy, this means tailoring exercises that support a woman’s changing body throughout her pregnancy journey.

The goal of exercise prescription in OB physical therapy is to address common pregnancy-related discomforts, such as back pain and pelvic girdle pain, while also preparing the body for labor and delivery. It involves a variety of exercises that focus on improving strength, flexibility, and balance – all of which are essential for a healthy pregnancy.

Benefits of Exercise Prescription during Pregnancy

Regular exercise during pregnancy has numerous benefits both for the mother and baby. However, it’s important to note that not all exercises are suitable for pregnant women. That’s where exercise prescription comes in – by creating an individualized program, it takes into account any medical conditions or pregnancy complications.

Some potential benefits of exercise prescription during pregnancy include:

  • Improved cardiovascular health: Regular aerobic exercise can increase heart rate and improve blood flow, which can decrease the risk of developing conditions like preeclampsia.
  • Reduced back pain: As your belly grows, it shifts your center of gravity and puts additional strain on your back muscles. Exercise prescription can help strengthen these muscles and alleviate any discomfort.
  • Boosted mood: Pregnancy can be an emotional rollercoaster for many women due to hormonal changes. Exercise has been shown to release endorphins, which improve mood and reduce stress and anxiety.

Types of Exercises in Exercise Prescription

Exercise prescription in OB physical therapy includes a variety of exercises that focus on different areas of the body. Some common types of exercises include:

  1. Aerobic exercises: These are low-impact activities that get your heart rate up. Walking, swimming, and cycling are great options for pregnant women.
  2. Strength training: Pregnancy can cause muscle loss, so strength training exercises help maintain and improve muscle mass. Resistance band workouts or using weight machines under the guidance of a physical therapist can be beneficial.
  3. Core exercises: Strengthening the core muscles can help support your growing belly and reduce back pain. It also helps prepare the body for labor and delivery.
  4. Pelvic floor exercises: These exercises focus on strengthening the pelvic floor muscles, which play a crucial role during pregnancy and childbirth.
  5. Balance training: As your body changes during pregnancy, maintaining balance becomes more challenging. Balance exercises can help prevent falls and improve stability.

Exercise Prescription Guidelines for Pregnant Women

Before starting any exercise routine, it is essential to consult with your OB physical therapist. They will evaluate your overall health and provide personalized exercise prescription guidelines based on your specific needs.

Some general guidelines for pregnant women when it comes to exercise prescription include:

  • Starting slow: If you were not physically active before pregnancy, start with low-intensity exercises and gradually increase as your body adjusts.
  • Avoiding high-risk activities: Activities that may cause excessive strain on the body or have a high risk of falling should be avoided during pregnancy.
  • Listening to your body: Pay attention to how you feel during and after exercising. If something feels uncomfortable or painful, stop immediately and consult with your physical therapist.
  • Staying hydrated: It is crucial to stay hydrated during exercise, especially while pregnant. Make sure to drink plenty of water before, during, and after your workout.

Now let’s take a closer look at the types of exercises that are typically prescribed for pregnant women:

  1. Aerobic exercises: These are low-impact activities such as walking, swimming or biking that help improve cardiovascular endurance and overall fitness.
  2. Strength training: As pregnancy progresses, the body undergoes various changes that can lead to muscle imbalances and weakness. Doing strength training exercises can help maintain and improve muscle mass, which is essential for supporting the added weight of your growing baby.

Resistance band workouts or using weight machines under the guidance of a physical therapist are safe options for strength training during pregnancy.

  1. Pelvic floor exercises: The pelvic floor muscles support the uterus, bladder, and bowel, which can become weakened during pregnancy and childbirth. Doing exercises specifically targeted at strengthening these muscles can help prevent issues such as incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse.
  2. Yoga and stretching: These activities can help alleviate common discomforts of pregnancy such as back pain, tightness in the hips and shoulders, and improve overall flexibility and relaxation.

However, it is essential to modify certain poses and avoid any movements that may strain the abdominal muscles.

It’s crucial to remember that every pregnancy is different, and exercises should be tailored to individual needs. Your physical therapist will work with you to create an exercise program that is safe and effective for your specific situation.

Benefits of Exercise Prescription in OB Physical Therapy

Exercise prescription during pregnancy has numerous benefits for both the mother and baby, including:

  • Improved overall health: Regular exercise can help reduce the risk of developing gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, and excessive weight gain during pregnancy.
  • Easier labor and delivery: Strengthening the pelvic floor muscles through targeted exercises can improve muscle control and make it easier to push during labor.
  • Faster postpartum recovery: Maintaining an exercise routine during pregnancy can help women recover faster after giving birth by improving muscle strength and endurance.
  • Improved mood and mental health: Pregnancy can bring on a range of emotions, and regular exercise has been shown to improve mood and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.
  • Bonding with your baby: Many OB physical therapy exercises involve breathing techniques that can help promote relaxation and bonding between the mother and baby.

What To Expect During An Exercise Prescription Session

During your initial consultation with a physical therapist, they will assess your current fitness level, any pre-existing conditions, and discuss any concerns or preferences you may have regarding exercise. They will also take into account how far along you are in your pregnancy to create a tailored program that is safe and effective.

Your exercise prescription may include a combination of aerobic, strength, and flexibility exercises, depending on your individual needs. The therapist will guide you through each exercise and make adjustments as needed to accommodate any physical changes you may experience during pregnancy.

It’s important to listen to your body and communicate with your therapist if something feels uncomfortable or painful. They may also provide modifications for certain exercises to ensure your safety and prevent injury.

Additional Tips for Safe Exercise Prescription During Pregnancy

  • Stay hydrated: It’s important to drink plenty of water before, during, and after exercise to stay properly hydrated.
  • Wear comfortable clothing: Choose loose-fitting, breathable clothing that allows for movement and doesn’t restrict blood flow.
  • Avoid high-intensity activities: During pregnancy, it’s best to stick to low-impact activities to avoid putting too much strain on your body.
  • Don’t push yourself too hard: The goal of exercise prescription during pregnancy is not to achieve personal bests or improve fitness levels. It’s about maintaining a healthy level of physical activity for both you and your baby.

Benefits of Exercise Prescription in OB Physical Therapy

Apart from the physical benefits such as improved strength, flexibility, and posture, exercise prescription in OB physical therapy also has many mental and emotional benefits. Some of these include:

  • Reduced risk of gestational diabetes: Regular exercise can lower the risk of developing gestational diabetes, which can lead to complications during pregnancy and delivery.
  • Improved mood: Exercise releases endorphins, the “feel-good” hormones that can help reduce stress and anxiety.
  • Better sleep: Many pregnant women struggle with getting a good night’s sleep, but regular exercise can improve sleep quality and help you feel more rested.
  • Preparation for labor and delivery: Stronger muscles and better endurance can make it easier to cope with the physical demands of labor and delivery.


Exercise prescription is an essential aspect of OB physical therapy, providing numerous benefits for both the mother and baby. It’s important to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any exercise routine during pregnancy and to listen to your body. Remember, the goal is not to push yourself too hard but rather to maintain a healthy level of physical activity. So stay hydrated, wear comfortable clothing, and enjoy the many benefits that exercise can bring during this special time in your life. So go ahead and get moving! Your body (and mind) will thank you for it. See you at therapy!