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Playing sport during pregnancy

6-minute read

Playing sport as you prepare for the arrival of your baby can be good for you. However, it is important to consider which sports you can play, and what happens as your body changes. Here is some information to help you make these decisions and understand who can support you.

Benefits of doing sport and exercise

Exercising and playing sport while pregnant can help you:

It may also allow you to have a shorter birth and fewer complications. Exercises during pregnancy can also help prevent incontinence.

Regular exercise also lowers your risk of:

While pregnant, you'll need to take care, and avoid certain types of sport.

Even with sports that are not risky, you may need to make some changes. It's important to tell your maternity team about any sport you are playing. That way, they can support you and provide advice.

Medical conditions that may affect you playing sport

Your maternity team may want to monitor your participation in sport if you:

  • have problems with your heart, lungs, or liver
  • have diabetes that is not well controlled
  • have bone or joint problems
  • have an infectious disease
  • are obese or underweight
  • have problems with your pregnancy or a previous pregnancy
  • have anaemia
  • are having a multiple birth (e.g. twins or triplets)

While exercising, you should stop and see your doctor straight away, if:

  • you have chest pain
  • your heart rate is higher than usual
  • you have unusual shortness of breath
  • your baby's movements have decreased
  • you are having contractions
  • you leak or gush fluid from your vagina
  • your ankles, hands, or face suddenly swell
  • you have pain, swelling or redness in your calves
  • you have muscle weakness
  • you feel dizzy or faint

Sport and your level of fitness

How you approach physical activity during your pregnancy may depend on your fitness level. Regardless, you should always talk to your doctor or midwife before exercising during your pregnancy.

What if I am not currently active?

If you are pregnant and want to start a sport, choose one which needs less effort. You could start with 15 minutes per session, building up to 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise.

What if I am already active?

You may already be active, healthy, and have an uncomplicated pregnancy. If so, you can usually keep active. However, do not continue a sport if it should be avoided during pregnancy.

Pregnancy is also not a good time to set new personal records.

It's important for you to:

  • stay comfortable
  • warm up before playing your sport
  • cool down after your sport

Sports to avoid

Physical activity in pregnancy is safe and good for you. However, some sports may cause harm to you or your baby.

You should not play sports that:

  • make you work very hard or become too hot
  • could cause you to fall
  • could hit your baby
  • have lots of jumping or bouncing
  • involve sudden changes in direction
  • involve diving or high altitudes

Sport and stages of pregnancy

You may need to make some changes as your pregnancy advances.

First trimester (1 to 12 weeks)

During this time, keep cool to protect both yourself and your baby. To avoid overheating:

  • avoid playing sport when it is hot or humid
  • wear loose, cool clothing
  • drink plenty of water

Second and third trimesters (13 to 40 weeks)

As your baby grows, they are no longer protected by your pelvis. Avoid high impact sports that could hit your baby.

Your own centre of gravity also moves so there is an increased risk of falling. If you feel unsteady or uncomfortable, stop what you're doing.

Your ligaments become looser so there is more chance of ligament injuries. Avoid sports that involve:

  • heavy weights
  • sudden movements
  • changes in direction (such as court sports like tennis and squash)

Your blood pressure may decrease. To avoid getting dizzy when changing your posture (for example, from sitting to standing) make slower movements.

After 16 weeks, avoid activity that involves lying on your back. This affects the blood supply to the baby and can make you feel dizzy.

During pregnancy, its recommended that you do strengthening and pelvic floor exercises.

Medium intensity aerobic activity (such as brisk walking, cycling, and swimming) are also recommended.

It's good to do lower-risk activities that:

  • are non-contact or limited contact
  • support your weight
  • do not involve sudden shifts in positions
  • have a limited chance of you falling
  • allow you to exercise at low or moderate intensity
  • are designed specifically for pregnancy

Swimming and aquanatal exercise classes can support your weight. However, avoid being in water that is warmer than 32ºC for very long.

You can learn more about what exercises are recommended during pregnancy. You can also read more about doing yoga and Pilates during pregnancy.

Don't forget to talk to your doctor or midwife about which sports and exercises are safe for you.

Speak to a maternal child health nurse

Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: July 2022


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