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The following content is an educational collaboration between WebMD and the Department of Health and Human Services.

When you're pregnant, exercise can help you feel better, sleep sounder, and build stamina for getting through labor. But you need to tune in to how you feel. If you pay attention, your body has ways of telling you when to back off or when there's a problem. Take a moment to learn the warning signs during exercise. 

When to Stop Exercising

Take a break if you have any of the following:

  • Low energy. Some days you may feel extremely tired for no apparent reason. Take this as a sign to rest.
  • Shortness of breath. A growing baby can push against your lungs and make it harder to take a full breath, especially in your last few months. But if you have increased shortness of breath or any other breathing changes that are unusual, call your doctor right away.
  • Overheating. If you feel yourself getting hot, take a siesta. Getting too overheated can cause some serious problems for your growing baby, including birth defects. Make sure you drink plenty of water while exercising.  Stay safe and take it easy when you're exercising on hot days.  
  • Dizziness. You're more likely to feel dizzy during pregnancy -- especially early in the second trimester. But dizziness during exercise could cause you to fall. Don't risk it -- if you feel dizzy take a break and lie down on your side. Call your doctor if the symptoms persist.
  • Pain in your back or hips. This is another sign your body's had enough for the time being. Stop what you're doing, and take it easy.

When to Call Your Health Care Provider

If you have any of the symptoms below, stop exercising right away and call your doctor:

  • Signs of preterm labor. It may be possible to stave off preterm labor if you and your doctor act quickly. Be on the lookout for these warning signs:
    • Contractions, especially if they continue after you rest and hydrate
    • Vaginal bleeding
    • Unusual pain in your belly
    • Fluid leaking or gushing from your vagina
  • Trouble breathing. Breathing problems such as asthma can be more serious when you are pregnant. Pick up the phone if you have any of these signs:
    • Persistent lightheadedness or feeling faint
    • Chest pain
    • Persistent heart pounding in your chest
    • Persistent rapid heartbeat
  • Less movement from your baby. After 28 weeks, you should be able to count at least 10 movements in 2 hours while you are resting
  • Severe or long-lasting headache. A headache that won’t go away after rest and Tylenol. In rare cases, a headache could be a sign of pregnancy-related high blood pressure, called preeclampsia.
  • Painful or swollen calves.  Pregnancy, water retention, and swelling go together. However, swollen, red, and tender calves could be the sign of a blood clot. Your doctor needs to know immediately.

Exercise is a great way to stay fit and emotionally grounded while pregnant. But pay attention and be ready to back off or call your doctor if your body sends you any of these warning signs.