Exercises To Avoid In Pregnancy [Contraindications You Need to Know]

Are you currently exercising during your pregnancy and want to know what exercises you should be avoiding?

You’re in the right place!

After reading this post, you are going to learn:

  • Specific exercises you should avoid during each trimester of your pregnancy,
  • The activities you should not participate in during pregnancy, and
  • Other contraindications to exercise in pregnancy.

Let’s get started 

exercises-to-avoid

Disclaimer

***READ FIRST***

Although I am a doctor, I am not your doctor. This information is for informational purposes only and should not substitute the advice from your healthcare professional. All kinds of exercise and dietary changes are potentially dangerous, and those who do not seek counsel from the appropriate health care authority assume the liability of any injury which may occur. Please read my full Disclaimer for more information. Also, this post may contain affiliate links: meaning I may receive a commission if you use them.

Ok, moving on.

What activities should be avoided during pregnancy?

During pregnancy it is important to avoid any sort of activity that can cause or increase the risk of:

  • direct abdominal trauma
  • falling, and
  • severe dehydration.

These include: 

1. Contact sports

Contact sports include activities like basketball, football, volleyball, and soccer. These activities greatly increase the risk of trauma to your abdomen, falling, and endangering your pregnancy.

2. Outdoor Cycling

Outdoor cycling is another physical activity that is not recommend during your pregnancy. There are too many risks including falling off your bike, crashing into another biker or pedestrian, and/or getting hit by a car. If you really love biking I would recommend a stationary bike.

3. Scuba diving

Scuba diving is another activity that poses far too many risks in pregnancy. During the second and third trimester, your blood pressure normally decreases due to the changes occurring in your body.

Scuba diving affects your cardiovascular system by causing your blood vessels to constrict. This leads to your blood pressure increasing, while decreasing the actual volume of blood your heart pumps out to your tissues and organs.

As a result, this can compromise blood flow to your baby.

In addition, carbon dioxide can builds up in your body as you are not effectively ventilating. High levels of carbon dioxide can poison you and your baby.

Lastly you increase the risk of developing an embolism or blood clot that could be fatal.

4. Roller blading

Roller blading is a fun activity but one that needs to be avoided during pregnancy. This is obviously due to the risk of falling and injuring yourself or your baby.

activities-to-avoid-in-pregnancy

5. Skiing

Save the ski boots for next year. Downhill skiing is a high risk sport and definitely should be avoided while you are pregnant for all the same reasons as above.

6. Hot Yoga

Aside from the activities above, it is also important to avoid extreme temperatures.

Hot yoga is one of the activities you should avoid due to the very high temperature associated with the practice. What you may not know is, hot yoga can cause very dangerous levels of dehydration which can compromise blood flow to your baby, and even lead to preterm contractions. It is very common for pregnant women to become dehydrated and it is a common reason why women come to labor and delivery triage for evaluation.

7. Hot Pilates

Hot Pilates should be avoided during your pregnancy for the same reason hot yoga should be avoided. 

What Specific Exercises Should You Avoid in Pregnancy?

During pregnancy it is very important to avoid any exercise that requires you to be flat on your back or flat on your stomach.

Let me explain why.

Your uterus is positioned anterior, or in front of, your major blood vessels.

These blood vessels include the aorta which carries oxygenated blood from your heart to the rest of your body and the inferior vena cava which carries deoxygenated blood from your body back to your heart.

When you lay down flat on your back, your gravid uterus will compress these vessels impeding the flow of blood, decreasing the oxygen being delivered to the rest of your body.

This can cause symptoms such as feeling faint, shortness of breath, and fatigue. Plus, you will compromise blood flow to the uterus as well.

Lying flat on your stomach should be avoided for obvious reasons.

You have a growing baby and placenta inside your uterus. If you lie down flat on your stomach, you will put a lot of pressure on the amniotic sac which in theory can compress the placenta and umbilical cord, inhibiting the flow of vital nutrients, blood, and oxygen to your baby.

Not to mention, this will be very uncomfortable for you as well.

So please do not lie on your back or your stomach while pregnant.

lying-flat-on-your-back-in-pregnancy

Here are common examples of exercises you should avoid.

Sit-ups & Crunches

Sit ups require you to be flat on your back and place too much pressure on your core muscles.

Crunches are just a a partial version of the sit-up. They should be avoided for the same reason.

Instead You Can Do:

Modified planks. Check out my post on planking while pregnant to learn more.

Heavy Squats

Squatting is great for pregnancy. I have an entire post on how to squat safely.

With that said, you should avoid heavy squats because it requires very strong levels of intra-abdominal pressure.

It’s hard to say how much exertion is safe to do while pregnant, but you certainly don’t want to be lifting very heavy weights. The American Medical Association recommends that you don’t lift anything greater than 50 lbs after the third trimester.

Alternatively, this small study found that keeping the intensity to a RPE (rate of perceived exertion to a 11-13/20 or approximately a 6/10 appeared safe.

In addition, heavy barbell exercises may have an increased risk of injury during pregnancy as your muscles and joints have increased laxity which may be due to a hormone known as relaxin.

Instead You Can Do:

Bodyweight squats and goblet squats.

Heavy Deadlifts

Heavy deadlifts should be avoided for the same reasons as heavy squats.

Instead You Can Do:

Light romanian deadlifts or dumbbell sumo deadlifts which I cover in my 2nd trimester strength workout.

Bench Press

Bench press requires you to be flat on your back, and has a risk of you potentially dropping the weight on your abdomen.

Instead You Can Do:

Modified push-ups. Check out my post on pregnancy push-up variations to learn more.

Glute bridge 

Glute bridges again require you to be flat on your back for prolonged periods of time.

Instead You Can Do:

Hip thrusts with your back supported against a bench or a chair.


Now in this next section I am going to explain which exercises should be avoided during each trimester of pregnancy.

Let’s get started.

Exercises to avoid during the first trimester of pregnancy

In the first trimester of pregnancy there are not too many exercises you need to avoid as most women don’t even know they are pregnant and your uterus is extremely small as the fetus is very small.

With that said, it is best to avoid the major activities that increase your risk of abdominal trauma, and extreme elevations in your heart rate or body temperature.

These include:

  • contact sports
  • hot yoga, and
  • high intensity interval training

Exercises to avoid during the second trimester

During the second trimester your uterus undergoes rapid growth as does your baby.

It is best to avoid any exercise that increases your risk of direct abdominal trauma as well as exercises that require you to be flat on your back or flat on your stomach.

These include:

  • contact sports
  • jumping/plyometric activities
  • hot yoga, and
  • all exercises where you are on your back or stomach

Are There Household activities to avoid during pregnancy?

There aren’t any specific household activities you should avoid during pregnancy.

You must listen to your body and avoid anything that causes pain or discomfort.

Other Related Questions

What are the risks of exercising while pregnant?

The major risks of exercising while pregnancy include: increased risks of maternal trauma, and increased risk of a temporary decrease in blood flow to your uterus.

The good news is, if you are careful and exercise using a mild to moderate intensity, these risks are minimal.

In addition, many women report the development of low back in pregnancy. If done incorrectly, exercise can worsen or exacerbate low back pain.

When should you stop or slow down?

If you have medical clearance from your healthcare provider, and you have no contraindication to exercise, there is no need for you to stop exercising at a specific time period.

speak-with-your-doctor

However, you may notice that in the 3rd trimester, exercise will become more difficult. You will experience less mobility, increased shortness of breath, and increased fatigue.

It is appropriate to slow down in the second and third trimesters.

Always listen to your body!

Your body is amazing at non-verbal communication. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.

Now, if you have never exercised prior to pregnancy, make sure to speak with your doctor to ensure you are cleared to exercise.

What women should not exercise?

Medical contraindications to exercise during pregnancy include:

  • Significant lung disease
  • Significant cardiac disease
  • Multiple gestations including twins or triplets
  • Cervical insufficiency 
  • Preterm labor
  • Preeclampsia
  • Severe anemia
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Threatened Abortion 

Can exercise cause a miscarriage?

There have been no studies linking exercise and miscarriage risk.

With that said, it is important to speak with your doctor regarding your individual scenario.

exercise-while-pregnant

In which month should I start exercise during pregnancy?

You can start exercising as soon as you find out you are pregnant as long as you don’t have any contraindications to exercise as mentioned above.

If you would like to get started, check out the following articles:

Are squats safe while pregnant?

Yes, squats are perfectly safe while pregnant.

If you think about it. squatting is a natural movement pattern that you do every single day.

You squat

  • when you sit down,
  • when you stand up from a seated position,
  • when you pick items up off the floor,
  • and when you use the toilet.

To learn more, check out my post explaining everything you need to know about Squatting in Pregnancy.

Can I do sit ups while pregnant?

No, you should not do sit ups while pregnant.

They place too much pressure on the core, and as a result on your uterus.

In general you should avoid any ab exercise that requires you to be flat on your back, especially in the second and third trimester.

If you want to strengthen your core during pregnancy, check out my post on 21 Best Core Exercises for Pregnancy.

Final Words On Exercises To Avoid In Pregnancy

Exercising while pregnant is an important part of maintaining a healthy gestation.

But as with most things in life, it is important to do it safely and responsibly.

Which exercises were you most shocked about on this list?

Comment below and let me know!

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brittany-robles

Brittany N Robles, MD, MPH, CPT

Brittany Robles is a full-time OBGYN, a NASM certified personal trainer, and health & fitness, expert. She holds a Masters of Public Health degree in maternal health with a special interest in exercise and nutrition. She is also the co-author of The White Coat Trainer. Learn more about her here.



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