Women can enjoy a much broader range of physical activity during pregnancy than was previously thought, says Dr Raul Artal, professor and chairman of the department of ob-gyn and women's health at Saint Louis University School of Medicine. He recently announced new American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommendations on exercise and air travel during pregnancy.
Artal says pregnant women's increased activities extend from the sports field to the workplace. Recently, the Census Bureau reported that women are working later into pregnancy and returning sooner to the office after childbirth than they did 30 years ago.
Artal credited research studies and the explosion of women's sports activities under federal Title 9 education program with the evolution of advice on exercise during pregnancy. ACOG recommendations have progressed over the years from permitting limited amounts of exercise during pregnancy, to the new ACOG exhortations that pregnant women "engage in 30 minutes or more of moderate exercise on most, if not all, days of the week."
"We've found that the increasing numbers of female athletes and women who enjoy vigorous exercise want to continue that level of fitness during their pregnancy. And in many cases, they can," says Artal.
The exceptions: pregnant women should not engage in scuba diving, because the fetus is at risk for decompression sickness. ACOG also cautions against engaging in recreational activities that carry increased risks for abdominal trauma -- such as ice hockey, kickboxing, soccer or horseback riding.
For the first time, ACOG has also issued specific recommendations on air travel during pregnancy, saying that air travel is safe for most pregnant women up to 36 weeks gestation. While most US airlines allow pregnant women to fly up to 36 weeks gestation on domestic flights, 35 weeks gestation is usually the limit on international flights.