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Physical Activity and Exercise During Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period

ACOG Committee Opinion Summary, Number 804

Author Information
doi: 10.1097/AOG.0000000000003773
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Regular physical activity in all phases of life, including pregnancy, promotes health benefits. Pregnancy is an ideal time for maintaining or adopting a healthy lifestyle and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists makes the following recommendations:

  • Physical activity and exercise in pregnancy are associated with minimal risks and have been shown to benefit most women, although some modification to exercise routines may be necessary because of normal anatomic and physiologic changes and fetal requirements.
  • A thorough clinical evaluation should be conducted before recommending an exercise program to ensure that a patient does not have a medical reason to avoid exercise.
  • Women with uncomplicated pregnancies should be encouraged to engage in aerobic and strength-conditioning exercises before, during, and after pregnancy.
  • Obstetrician–gynecologists and other obstetric care providers should evaluate women with medical or obstetric complications carefully before making recommendations on physical activity participation during pregnancy. Activity restriction should not be prescribed routinely as a treatment to reduce preterm birth.
  • Additional research is needed to study the effects of exercise on pregnancy-specific conditions and outcomes and to clarify further effective behavioral counseling methods and the optimal type, frequency, and intensity of exercise. Similar research is needed to create an improved evidence base concerning the effects of occupational physical activity on maternal–fetal health.

[Box 1]

Examples of Exercises That Have Been Extensively Studied in Pregnancy and Found to Be Safe and Beneficial

  • Walking
  • Stationary cycling
  • Aerobic exercises
  • Dancing
  • Resistance exercises (eg, using weights, elastic bands)
  • Stretching exercises
  • Hydrotherapy, water aerobics

Modified from Berghella V, Saccone G. Exercise in pregnancy! Am J Obstet Gynecol 2017;216:335–7.

[Box 2]

Benefits of Exercise in Pregnancy

Higher incidence of:

  • Vaginal delivery

Lower incidence of:

  • Excessive gestational weight gain
  • Gestational diabetes mellitus
  • Gestational hypertensive disorders*
  • Preterm birth
  • Cesarean birth
  • Lower birth weight

*Defined as gestational hypertension or preeclampsia

Modified from Berghella V, Saccone G. Exercise in pregnancy! Am J Obstet Gynecol 2017;216:335–7.

[Box 3]

Warning Signs to Discontinue Exercise While Pregnant

  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Abdominal pain
  • Regular painful contractions
  • Amniotic fluid leakage
  • Dyspnea before exertion
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Chest pain
  • Muscle weakness affecting balance
  • Calf pain or swelling

[Table 3]:
Characteristics of a Safe and Effective Exercise Regimen in Pregnancy

Number 804 (Replaces Committee Opinion Number 650, December 2015)

For a comprehensive overview of these recommendations, the full-text version of this Committee Opinion is available at

Scan this QR code with your smartphone to view the full-text version of this Committee Opinion.

Committee on Obstetric Practice

This Committee Opinion was developed by the Committee on Obstetric Practice with the assistance of committee members Meredith L. Birsner, MD; and Cynthia Gyamfi-Bannerman, MD, MSc.

Full-text document published online on March 26, 2020.

Copyright 2020 by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, posted on the internet, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission from the publisher.

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Official Citation

Physical activity and exercise during pregnancy and the postpartum period. ACOG Committee Opinion No. 804. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Obstet Gynecol 2020;135:e178–88.

© 2020 by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Published by Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.