I've exercised regularly for years. Now that I'm pregnant, do I need to limit my heart rate while I exercise?

Answers from Roger W. Harms, M.D.

If you exercised regularly before pregnancy, there's no need to focus on your heart rate for exercise during pregnancy.

Years ago, some experts recommended a heart rate of no more than 140 beats a minute for exercise during pregnancy. Today, however, heart rate limits aren't typically imposed during pregnancy. For healthy women, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity — preferably spread throughout the week — without any specific heart rate limits.

Still, reasonable precautions for exercise during pregnancy are important. Get your health care provider's OK for any exercise during pregnancy — especially if you have a history of preterm labor or certain medical conditions, such as high blood pressure.

Also, be careful to pace yourself appropriately. In general, you should be able to carry on a conversation while you're exercising. If you can't speak normally while you're working out, you're probably pushing yourself too hard. If you have vaginal bleeding or other unusual signs or symptoms, stop exercising and contact your health care provider.

July 11, 2014