Exercise During Pregnancy with Low Blood Pressure

Erica – Do you have any advice for mama’s with low-blood pressure who wish to keep exercising?

Low blood pressure (hypotension) is actually very common during pregnancy, due to an increase in pregnancy hormones which cause almost all cells of your body to relax, in this case your blood vessels. This may cause a problem for you, now you don’t have enough blood to pump through your circulatory system because it’s “underfilled”. This results in low blood pressure, which can come on fairly sudden, may even seem as if one morning you wake up & start to lose your balance, feel dizzy (especially when standing), lightheaded, nauseas, fatigued, have a racing pulse, & sweat easily. If you are already very fit & active prior to pregnancy, you may find you are greatly affected by low blood pressure, making it hard for you to workout as you had prior to becoming pregnant. Your body is already very efficient, so this sudden change you will notice.  You will probably need to decrease your intensity, & modify your exercise to prevent the above symptoms. Thus if you are an avid runner prior to becoming pregnant you may no longer be able to run during pregnancy if running makes your feel lightheaded, dizzy, nauseas, fatigued (more than normal), racing pulse, extreme sweating. It’s completely normal to sweat more than usual once your are pregnant, this is your body’s natural way of dissipating heat & keeping your core temperture healthy for your baby. Why & what you can do to help with your low blood pressure symptoms:
  • You may be dehydrated. Dehydration is a major cause of low blood pressure symptom, along with many other symptoms during pregnancy.  So drink lots of water, all the time! I know you will have to pee more often but that’s what happens when your pregnant.
  • Your body actually may need more salt, now not for everyone, but if you are one who tends to crave salt I would give it a try.  I recommend trying Himalayan Sea Salt (the pink rock looking salt), you will mostly likely need a salt grinder but most you buy come in one already. Try Trader Joe’s, Mother’s Market, Whole Foods, just to name a few I know of here in Southern Cal. If you have none of those try looking at your regular grocery & if you find none go to a more specialty health food grocery or online.
  • Don’t stand or sit in one position to long, this can cause your blood to pool in your legs (not allowing back to your brain) & cause any of the low blood pressure symptoms. So change positions often, try to limit standing/sitting to no longer than 30 minutes, then do the opposite. If you tend to sit all day, during breaks go for a short walk to get your blood moving more easily through your body. If you tend to stand all day, try sitting as often as you can during breaks. If you are having lots of swelling of your legs, your Doc may have you wear compression stocking to help prevent your blood from pooling in your legs.
  • If you tend to feel low blood pressure symptoms even when sitting try lying on your left side to help your blood flow more easily through your body. You may just have to move, as your baby’s position can be the cause of symptoms.
  • Be sure to eat healthy well balanced, carbs, protein, fiber, & fat, to keep your blood sugar stable. Now that’s another topic but the symptoms of low blood sugar are similar to low blood pressure. So be sure you are eating healthy snacks/meals every 2-3 hours. This will help if you are experiencing lightheaded, dizzy, etc. but it’s due to your sugar levels not your blood pressure. Try an Apple or banana w/ 1-2 tbsp all-natural peanut butter or almond butter before &/or after your workout.
  • Exercise is a great way to help with your low blood pressure. Now I wouldn’t recommend running but walking instead, getting on an elliptical, bike, lifting light weights, try pilates, or yoga. Get your body moving & do what feels good for you.  If your exercising, standing, walking, even driving or whatever if may be & you start to feel any of the symptoms, especially faint, it’s a smart idea for you, your baby (& those around you if driving) to stop what your doing & sit or lie on your left side.

Most of these symptoms should be gone by your 4th month of pregnancy as your body has adjusted to the hormonal changes. Now that’s not everyone, so for those of you who are already in your 3rd trimester & feel this way, just keeping listening to you body.  Don’t try pushing your body to your limits (you can do that after baby, well 2-3 months after).

I found with both of my pregnancies, especially my 2nd, that I had to decrease my activity level & increase my salt intake.


Resources: Clapp III. James. F., Exercising Through Your Pregnancy. pg. 19-21. 2002.


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