What precautions should pregnant women take when exercising?

Updated on: Jan 8, 2021

A pregnant woman should avoid exercises of high-intensity, excessive fatigue and dehydration as well as certain dangerous sports. It is important that she listens to her body and prioritizes her own safety and that of her baby.  

What physical activity should pregnant women avoid?

Pregnant women should avoid: 

  • High-intensity exercise: 
    • To test this, during the activity she should be able to maintain a conversation, without being able to sing. 
    • There is little data indicating the acceptable level of intensity during pregnancy. Therefore, recommendations should be individualized according to: the status of the pregnancy, the level of pre-pregnancy physical activity and physical capacity.  
  • Excessive fatigue: 
    • Pregnant women should listen to their bodies to determine the right level of intensity that will not cause exhaustion. 
  • Excessive heat and dehydration: 
    • Pregnant women should refrain from doing intense or lengthy physical activity in a hot environment.  
    • To avoid dehydration, pregnant women should drink water before, during and after engaging in physical activity. It is recommended to drink at least 250-300 ml of fluid every half hour of physical activity.  
  • Sports that present a high risk of falling (walking or biking on steep trails, alpine skiing or horseback riding), getting hit in the stomach (racket sports such as squash or tennis) or those taking place in an environment where there is a risk of running out of oxygen (scuba diving and activities at an altitude greater than 1600 m).  

What should pregnant women be aware of during physical activity?

Pregnant women must stop all physical activity and contact their doctor immediately if any of the following signs or symptoms appear: 

  • Vaginal bleeding 
  • Painful contractions 
  • Loss of amniotic fluid 
  • Difficulty breathing 
  • Headaches 
  • Dizziness 
  • Nausea 
  • Chest pain 
  • Muscle weakness 
  • Pain or swelling in the calves  

The type and intensity of physical activity can be modified as the pregnancy progresses in order to maximize comfort. Pregnant women must listen to their bodies and its limits. Further, if you present with any contraindications to physical activity, it is advisable to contact your doctor before beginning a new program or type of physical activity.  


IActive pour la vie. (2019). KINO Québec.


Artal, R. (2020). Exercise during pregnancy and the postpartum period. UpToDate.

Dietitians of Canada. Édition 2019 des Directives canadiennes en matière d’activité physique pendant la grossesse. Practice-based Evidence in Nutrition [PEN]. (2018, 23 octobre).


Mottola, M. F., Davenport, M. H., Ruchat, S. M., Davies, G. A., Poitras, V., Gray, C., Jaramillo Garcia, A., Barrowman, N., Adamo, K. B., Duggan, M., Barakat, R., Chilibeck, P., Fleming, K., Forte, M., Korolnek, J., Nagpal, T., Slater, L., Stirling, D., & Zehr, L. (2018). N° 367-2019 Lignes Directrices Canadiennes Sur L'activité Physique Durant La Grossesse. JOGC, 40(11), 1538–1548.




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