One question I’ve been getting a lot is: Is it safe for my heart rate to rise above 140 bpm while pregnant?
This guideline was originally established under fear that a higher pulse (and associated higher blood pressure) could rupture the fragile blood vessels bringing nutrients to the placenta. Because it wasn’t as common for women to be active, there was little research around how women’s bodies – and specifically pregnant women’s bodies – responded to exercise. Thus, OB-GYNs played it safe and set the 140 bpm limit.
Pregnant women aren’t exactly known to be a risk-taking, limit-pushing bunch, so this rather arbitrary number slowly became a hard-set rule for pregnant women to follow.
However, over the last generation or so, a cultural shift with respect to women’s fitness became apparent. Girls were increasingly raised competing in gymnastics, playing on recreational soccer teams, and learning wilderness skills on outdoor retreats. As these girls became women, they shattered Olympic records, closed the fitness gap between men and women, and demanded sports and outdoor gear for their female bodies.
Check out Top Ten Sports for Pregnant Bodies.
Then they became pregnant.
“Of course you can keep exercising. Just keep your heart rate below 140 beats per minute.”
Acclimated to max heart rates closer to 190 BPM, these active women balked at such a low number. Studies began popping up, and women started taking it upon themselves to feel how their new bodies responded to exercise.
No correlation was found between high maternal heart rates and rate of miscarriage.
No correlation was found between high maternal heart rates and fetal deformities or retardation.
As this number 140 BPM has been safely surpassed time and again, OB-GYNs have shifted their advice regarding exercise for pregnant women:
Listen to your body.
No more heart rate monitoring, no more taking it easy all nine months, no more treating your body like glass. Continue doing the sports you have been doing, just pay attention to your body. Pregnancy is designed to put the mother in discomfort long before any damage is done to the fetus. Your body will tell you to slow down by making you dizzy, weak, tired, or winded.
Try these Tips to Improve Energy While Pregnant.
Not used to exercise or nervous about “missing” the signals from your body? In that case make sure it’s always comfortable to talk while working out.
At the end of the day, the 140 BPM heart rate limit has proven to be an arbitrary number for pregnant athletes.
Listen to your body, stay tuned in, and keep that body moving!