What happens to your body during pregnancy?

What happens to your body during pregnancy?


Your body needs more oxygen when you’re pregnant, which makes you breathe more deeply and raises your heart rate. This is because your blood volume increases and needs to be pumped to two hearts – your own heart and your baby’s heart.


Your metabolism speeds up during pregnancy – even more so if you exercise too. To keep your blood sugar at a safe level, limit your exercise sessions to around 45 minutes.


Your circulation is affected by your body’s position. When you do exercises lying on your back, for example, you put pressure on some major blood vessels close to your spine. This can cause discomfort known as inferior vena cava syndrome. For this reason, it’s best for women to exercise either sitting or standing during the latter stage of their pregnancy.


The hormones released when you’re pregnant affect your joint mobility. Gaining weight also puts added strain on your joints, muscles, ligaments and skeleton.


Your stomach grows and your breasts become heavier. Your centre of gravity shifts and puts strain on your back muscles. Your balance can also be affected.


The vertical bands of your front stomach muscle, rectus abdominis, separate during pregnancy to allow your baby room to grow. This happens in what is known as the linea alba, which lies between the muscles of the rectus abdominis. This separation can make your core less stable.

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Why exercise during pregnancy?

There are a number of advantages:

  • You will feel better overall and less tired
  • You will handle stress, worry and anxiety better
  • You will sleep better
  • Less risk of swelling in your arms and legs
  • Less risk of suffering varicose veins in your legs
  • Fewer lower-back problems
  • Helps you avoid becoming overweight
  • Less risk of developing gestational diabetes

Exercising while pregnant will not affect your delivery or how long your labour lasts. Instead, it will help you better adjust to the changes that take place in your body while you’re pregnant.

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Recommended exercise routine

Aerobic activity – That is, physical activity that makes your muscles need oxygen. Often done as fitness training in the form of cycling, walks, or swimming. It is recommended that adults get 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week, divided into three sessions.

Strength training – Can be done at a gym or using your body as a weight. It’s important to work both the major muscle groups and your pelvic floor muscles.

Avoid sitting for long periods of time. Take breaks often and “stretch your legs”.


Pregnancy-friendly aerobic physical activity

Focus on maintaining your fitness, but don’t try to set any personal records!

If you already exercise at a high level of intensity, you can continue to do so, but remember that your capacity will decrease over time. Make sure you eat and drink enough!

Suitable forms of exercise are walking, Nordic walking, jogging, cycling, aerobics, step aerobics, gymnastics and dance. Swimming and aquarobics are also suitable.

If you have pelvic girdle pain, it can be difficult to move around as you would like to or are used to doing. Taking walks or swimming might even be impossible for you. If so, try cycling, or a personalised training programme designed by a physiotherapist with specialist expertise in the area.

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Muscle strengthening

Muscle-strengthening exercises should preferably focus on your pelvic floor muscles, back and other core muscles, legs and arms. If you have difficulty activating your pelvic floor muscles, book an appointment with a physiotherapist with specialist expertise in the area.


Flexibility training

You’re usually more flexible when you’re expecting a baby due to pregnancy hormones. Therefore, ordinarily, no extra flexibility training is needed. Many pregnant women experience stiffness and tension in their upper back, however, so flexibility exercises that work this area can provide relief.

If you suffer from excessive movement of the pubic joint (SPD) or pelvic girdle pain, you should not stretch muscles in your legs or pelvic area. Consult a physiotherapist with specialist expertise.

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Physical complaints related to pregnancy & physical activity


Forty-five per cent of all pregnant women experience back and pelvic girdle pain. Of these women, one-third find these problems to be physically disabling. There is some evidence to suggest that specific exercise programmes that include stabilising exercises and aquarobics can prevent and relieve back and pelvic girdle pain.


The distance between the vertical stomach muscles increases, with a thinning and stretching of the linea alba as a result. Among pregnant women, 66-100 per cent experience abdominal separation during the latter stage of pregnancy and up to 53 per cent experience it immediately after childbirth. Currently, there is no scientific basis on which to assess the effect of exercise on abdominal separation.


Gestational diabetes affects one per cent of all pregnant women in Europe. Physical activity and a reduced calorie intake have proven effective in preventing and treating gestational diabetes.


Women who train their pelvic floor muscles experience a significant improvement in problems with urine leakage.


Physical activity has been proven to relieve and prevent mental illness and stress.


Nowadays, a large number of all pregnant women are overweight.

Many health problems have been shown to improve when pregnant women are physically active, although studies confirming the most effective amount of exercise and intensity are lacking. Facts quoted from Physical Activity in the Prevention and Treatment of Disease, 3rd edition (FYSS 2017).


Contraindications concerning physical exercise during pregnancy

Diving, contact sports and other sports where there is a risk of falling, such as downhill skiing, horseback riding, ice skating, ice hockey and apparatus gymnastics, are not considered suitable for pregnant women and are not recommended.