Healthy pregnant women without exercise contraindications are encouraged to exercise while pregnant. Regular exercise while pregnant may help control gestational weight gain, improve wellbeing and mood, and may play a role in the prevention of pregnancy-related complications.

Prior to starting an exercise program, all pregnant women are advised to talk with their health care provider. The PARmed-X for Pregnancy was developed as a screening tool for pregnant women who wish to exercise.

PARmed-X for Pregnancy (PDF)

Healthy Eating and Active Living for Pregnancy (Alberta Health Services) (PDF)

The North American Society of Obstetric Medicine.

Information for women with gestational diabetes.

Contraindications to Prenatal Exercise

Absolute Contraindications to Aerobic Exercise During Pregnancy

  • Ruptured membranes
  • Preterm labour.
  • Hypertensive disorders of pregnancy.
  • Incompetent cervix.
  • Growth restricted fetus.
  • High order multiple gestation (≥triplets).
  • Placenta previa after 28th week.
  • Persistent 2nd or 3rd trimester bleeding.
  • Uncontrolled Type I diabetes, thyroid disease, or other serious cardiovascular, respiratory, or systemic disorder.
  • Relative Contraindications to Aerobic Exercise During Pregnancy

    • Previous spontaneous abortion.
    • Previous preterm birth.
    • Mild/moderate cardiovascular disorder.
    • Mild/moderate respiratory disorder.
    • Anemia (Hb <100 g/L).
    • Malnutrition or eating disorder.
    • Twin pregnancy after 28th week.
    • Other significant medical conditions.
    • Reasons to Stop Exercise and Consult Your Health Care Provider

    • Excessive shortness of breath.
    • Chest pain.
    • Painful uterine contractions (more than 6-8 per hour).
    • Vaginal bleeding.
    • Any "gush" of fluid from vagina (suggesting premature rupture of the membranes).
    • Dizziness or faintness.
    • General Precautions for Prenatal Exercise

      • Past 4 months of pregnancy, exercises normally done in the supine position should be altered to be done side lying, standing or seated on an incline.
      • Warm up and cool down is recommended to prevent injury as joints are more prone to injury during pregnancy.
      • If bulging or rippling of the connective tissue along the midline of the abdomen (diastasis recti) is seen during abdominal exercise, these exercises should be stopped.
      • Emphasis must be placed on continuous breathing throughout exercise.
      • Exchale on exertion, inhale on relaxation - avoid holding your breath.
      • Maintain adequate nutrition and hydration before, during and after exercise.

The Program for Pregnancy and Postpartum Health (PPPH) is a multi-site research program developed in 2013, with the mission of conducting research to improve the life-long health of pregnant and postpartum women and their children.

The PPPH is directed by Dr. Margie Davenport who is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation. She received her PhD (2010) in Integrative Exercise Physiology from the University of Western Ontario and conducted a 2 year Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Calgary.

She is an emerging expert in metabolic and cardiovascular adaptations associated with normal and complicated pregnancies. Her primary interest is in the benefits of exercise prior to, during and following pregnancy for both mother and child.

“As a mother of two young daughters I understand the importance, difficulties and benefits of healthy living during pregnancy. Our goal is to provide women with the knowledge and guidance to achieve a healthy pregnancy. After all, a healthy pregnancy lays the foundation for a healthy future for you and your baby."

Margie Davenport PhD Director, Program for Pregnancy and Postpartum Health

The Program for Pregnancy and Postpartum Health is currently conducting research into how pregnancy and the postpartum period affects the short- and long-term risk of chronic disease for both mother and infant. We have studies that are as short as a few hours or as long as several months/years! If you are interested in learning more, please contact us at: or call 780-492-0642


Pregnancy is an exciting, but often overwhelming, time in a woman's life. Many pregnant women are more tired than usual, have swollen hands and feet, and have new aches and pains. It may seem like the perfect time to rest and relax but new research is showing that being active during pregnancy has many short and long term benefit for both you and your baby. Research has shown that exercise during pregnancy can:

Boost your mood and energy,
Improve sleep,
Help prevent excessive weight gain,
Improve circulation,
Increase tolerance to labour,
Decrease your risk for gestational diabetes, high blood pressure during
pregnancy and postpartum depression,
The list goes on!

NOTE: All pregnant women should speak to their health care provider about beginning or continuing to exercise during pregnancy. The PARmed-X for Pregnancy is used by health care providers as a screening tool for contraindications to exercise during pregnancy. You can use it to help start the conversation!


Gaining an appropriate amount of weight during pregnancy is important for the health of you and your baby! In 2009 the Institute of Medicine updated their weight gain recommendations for pregnant women. These guidelines were designed to optimize outcomes for both mother and child. Research has shown that gaining too little weight increases the risk of having a low birth weight baby. Evidence also demonstrates that gaining too much weight while pregnant increases the risk of having a high birth weight baby and postpartum weight retention. Moderation is key!

All pregnant women are recommended to gain between 0.5-2kg (1.1-4.4lbs) in the first trimester or 12 weeks of pregnancy. The amount of weight women are recommended to gain in the second and third trimesters are based on body mass index before pregnancy.
IOM WEIGHT GAIN CHART: New Recommendations for total and rate of weight T gain during regnancy, by Pregnancy bmi

Prepregnancy BMIBMI+ (kg/m2)Total Weight Gain (lbs)Rates of Weight Gain* 2nd and 3rd Trimester (lbs/week)
Underweight<18.528–401 (1–1.3)
Normal weight18.5-24.925–351 (0.8–1)
Overweight25.0-29.915–250.6 (0.5–0.7)
Obese (includes all classes)≥30.011–200.5 (0.4–0.6)

+ To calculate BMI go to
* Calculations assume a 0.5–2 kg (1.1–4.4 lbs) weight gain in the first trimester
(based on Siega-Riz et al., 1994; Abrams et al., 1995; Carmichael et al., 1997)

For more information about weight gain during pregnancy.
Where does the weight go when you are pregnant?

Baby: 8 pounds
Placenta: 2-3 pounds
Amniotic fluid: 2-3 pounds
Breast tissue: 2-3 pounds
Blood supply: 4 pounds
Stored fat for delivery and breastfeeding: 5-9 pounds
Larger uterus: 2-5 pounds

Total: 25-35 pounds recommended for pre-pregnancy BMI of 18.5-24.9kg/m2