Everyone knows the benefits of regular exercise, including maintaining a healthy weight, lowering blood pressure and reducing stress. Pregnant women face nine months of physical changes and exercise can fit into a healthy prenatal regimen. Pregnant women who exercise can experience less back pain, fewer bouts with constipation and increased endurance for labor. Regular exercise can also make it easier for you to get back into shape more quickly after the birth.

Doctor's orders

First, if you currently exercise regularly, consult with your doctor to make sure your routine is still advisable. Your doctor might limit some of your activities depending upon your health. It's smart to document your daily exercise routine so the doctor can evaluate it accurately. Before you talk to the doctor, write down your cardiovascular workout as well as weightlifting exercises and how much weight you use.

If you've never exercised routinely before, consult your doctor as well. It's advisable to start out any exercise slowly, and during pregnancy is no exception. Ask if your doctor can suggest an exercise routine for you or if she can point you to a good person or website to find one. She might suggest a local gym or trainer who has worked with pregnant women before.

The first trimester

Nausea and vomiting sometimes limit what a newly pregnant mom can tolerate, however, some people report that the fresh air and a brisk walk can do wonders for morning sickness. You also might be very tired during this time so don't overdo it and make sure to drink plenty of water. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology suggests approximately 30 minutes of reasonable exercise per day on most, if not all, days of the week unless you have a medical or pregnancy complication.

After three months

It's important to avoid contact sports and other activities where you might risk falling or injuring your abdominal area. As your baby and your uterus grow, your center of gravity shifts, which can make you unstable. Many physicians don't advise bicycling while pregnant because of the risk of falling. The safest and most productive activities are swimming, brisk walking, stationary cycling, step or elliptical machines and low-impact aerobics. These exercises carry a slight risk of injury, benefit your entire body and can be continued until birth.

Above all, remember to warm up and cool down adequately. Stop exercising and contact your doctor immediately if you feel dizzy, feel faint, have pain or contractions, are short of breath or have vaginal bleeding.

After the baby

Most women can safely perform a low-impact activity one to two weeks after a vaginal birth, or three to four weeks after a Cesarean birth. While many women are eager to get in shape quickly, return to your pre-pregnancy fitness routines gradually and safely.

Stay fit for you and your little one!

It's best to ask your doctor how soon you can begin your exercise routine after delivering your baby.

To find a doctor or speak to a nurse, call Consult-A-Nurse® at (951) 788-3463, 24 hours a day. Visit our obstetrics page for information on our women's and children's services.

Sources: ACOG.org, BabyCenter.com, FamilyDoctor.org, WebMD.com