Looking to squeeze in a workout before you welcome your little one? Go for it. As long as you exercised throughout your nine months and have your health care provider’s blessing to do so, there’s no reason you have to just sit around and wait for Go Time to come.
“There are no new restrictions for working out on your due date that weren’t already set in place at 20 weeks,” says Seema Venkatachalam, M.D., M.P.H., clinical instructor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University and a partner at the Northwestern Specialists for Women in Chicago. Those guidelines include no contact sports, no lifting anything greater than 20 pounds, and no twisting or lying on your back (in the case of yoga or abdominal workouts, for instance). The restriction about lying on your back is important because when you do so, your uterus presses down on a large vein that returns blood to your heart, which can cause your blood pressure to temporarily drop.
Here, we break down other benefits and things to consider about exercising on your due date.
The Benefits of Exercising Late in Pregnancy
Study after study continues to prove the benefits of exercising up to, and even past, one’s due date, Dr. Venkatachalam says, with impressive benefits extending to both mother and child. First, you’re less likely to gain excessive weight while pregnant, which not only means you will have an easier time losing your pregnancy weight, but also, your little one will be less likely to be obese as he or she grows up, too. Fit, active pregnant women are less prone to back pain, pelvic pain, and urinary incontinence; are less likely to give birth to big babies; and enjoy lower rates of preeclampsia (high blood pressure and protein in the urine) and gestational diabetes.
If you’re hoping to avoid a cesarean section, working out on your due date “can improve blood flow and continue to help the baby move through the pelvis, thereby facilitating a natural delivery,” Dr. Venkatachalam says. One exception: If you are scheduled for a C-section, you will need to restrict fluid intake at least two hours prior to the procedure, meaning you might not have enough time to rehydrate following a high-intensity workout.
Still not sold? Sweating it out while pregnant is an effective, non-medical way to manage stress. The American Pregnancy Association says that 30 minutes of mild to moderate exercise several days a week helps to lower cortisol levels, a hormone known to cause anxiety.
Stick to your usual lifting weight.
Three-time World Miss Fitness America Pro and 2014 Miss Fitness Universe Stacie Venagro, 32, hit the gym up until the day she gave birth to her son in March 2016, about one week prior to her actual due date. In addition to an intense leg routine, including walking lunges, goblet squats, curtsy lunges, and calf raises, she helped choreograph fitness routines for some fellow competitors.
Venagro says she struggled with hearing people say to her, “You shouldn’t lift that,” when she knew she was perfectly capable of doing so. She also made sure not to increase the amount of weight she was lifting while pregnant. (When she first conceived, she was curling 15 pounds, so that’s where she stayed throughout the pregnancy.) Staying healthy and active during pregnancy, she says, “helped me bounce back more quickly than I thought I would.”
Do It Right
If you do choose to exercise on D-day, drink plenty of water before, during, and after your workout. Make sure you wear a sports bra with ample support to protect your breasts. If your bump is causing you back or pelvic pain, you may want to wear a belly support belt to reduce discomfort.
Stop your workout immediately and call your doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms during or following a workout: chest pain; shortness of breath; calf pain or swelling (either may indicate a blood clot); decreased fetal movement; dizziness or feeling faint; fluid or blood leaking from the vagina; a severe headache; muscle weakness; or uterine contractions.
And remember, it’s OK to skip your due date workout. Your life is about to change in a big way—there’s no shame in putting your feet up and taking a moment to relax.