“You’re killing your baby.” “This can’t be healthy.” “Is that safe?”
Those are just a few of the criticisms that fit moms like Chontel Duncan, Hannah Polites and more heard from Instagram commenters about working out during their pregnancies, despite their insistence that everything has been cleared by their doctor.
And generally, exercise is entirely safe and recommended by obstetricians, says Joanne Stone, MD, the director of Maternal Fetal Medicine at Mount Sinai Health System.
“There’s no limit on women on how much they can exercise,” Dr. Stone tells PEOPLE, “though some of it depends on if they’re having any complications, like preeclampsia, so there are different recommendations for those patients.”
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“But for people who are completely uncomplicated with a low risk of issues, there’s no limit on how much exercise they can do.”
“It’s totally fine,” she says. “What I normally tell people is to stay away from bench pressing, where you’re sitting on a bench with a barbell, because there’s the potential that it can fall and hit your belly. I would used hand weights to avoid that issue. But it’s really fine.”
Jumping or running movements are non-issues as well, because the baby is safer than society generally thinks.
“The fetus is very well protected,” Dr. Stone says. “It’s surrounded by embryonic fluid, and it has the very strong, muscular uterus around it to protect it, so it’s not something that’s going to hurt the baby.”
Dr. Stone’s main concern with exercise during pregnancy is the potential to fall.
“I do think, once you’re almost due, something like skating isn’t good because you could fall and hurt the fetus, so a stationary bike might be better. Your sense of balance changes so much, so you just have to be cautious about falling.”
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The most important thing for pregnant women is to listen to their bodies.
“It all depends on how you feel, really,” Dr. Stone says. “There are studies that show that people who exercise have fewer pregnancy-related symptoms, so if you still feel up to it then I feel like it’s great. People who exercise feel much better than people who don’t exercise.”
“I think it’s about comfort, what feels good.”