7.4.4  Exercise and blood flow in pregnancy

The weight gain in pregnant women increases the workload on the body from any physical activity. Steady, non-violent exercise is good for the mother because it prepares her body for labour (Figure 7.2), but sudden strong exercise, or working for too many hours without a break, may make her feel dizzy. This is because the reduced blood pressure and slight physiological anaemia cannot keep pace with the demand of her body for more oxygen.

A woman working in the fields and a woman sitting sewing all day, they are both tired
Figure 7.2  Having too much or too little exercise should be avoided in pregnancy.

A pregnant woman should not do exercises where she is lying on her back, due to the compression of the major blood vessels returning blood to her heart. Strong exercise may lead to decreased blood flow to the uterus because blood is diverted to the muscles, but this has not been shown to have any long-term effects on the baby. Pregnant women should not exercise vigorously in hot weather, or if it makes them breathless, or if there are known risk factors such as a history of miscarriage.

7.4.3  Blood pressure in pregnancy

7.4.5  Oedema in pregnancy