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Exercise Considerations for Women with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) during Pregnancy

Many find the recommendations for exercise and fitness during pregnancy confusing and even conflicting, depending where the information is found. Research trends have been identified, but every woman has a different exercise and medical history. It’s challenging for women to determine what is best for them when it comes to staying active while pregnant. There is even less information for women with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) while embarking on this exciting journey.

The best thing you can do is listen to your body, gently progress your exercises and adapt as your body changes during pregnancy. It’s important to be aware of the guidelines, but not be stressed by them. Remember that in research, only small groups of women represent the testing group so don’t compare and do the best you can.

Many women with MS report a reduction of neurological symptoms while pregnant and able to partake in more exercises and daily activities. It’s relatively uncommon to experience exacerbation during pregnancy. If you experience any changes in your symptoms, stop the exercise and talk to your medical team right away. It’s important to go slower, focus on strengthening, light cardio and flexibility and avoid activities that can throw you off balance i.e. single leg raises or exercises with your eyes closed. Throughout your pregnancy, make sure to rest, stay hydrated and move in ways that make you feel good.

Here are some things to consider and continue to scroll down to read about each trimester:

  • Try to move for at least 10-30 minutes for 3-5 days per week

  • Breaking down your exercises into smaller chunks throughout the day can be more manageable

  • Vary your exercise routine i.e. add in cardio, strengthening, yoga days

  • Make sure to give yourself at least 1-2 rest days weekly

  • Stay cool

  • Rest as much as you need to, but make sure to reposition yourself safely to avoid muscle tension and strain

For the first trimester

Many women with MS report fatigue and nausea being the two most common pregnancy symptoms. Walking, calming prenatal yoga routines and meditation are the best way to go as you experience these symptoms.

For the second trimester

Many call this the “golden trimester.” Many of the early symptoms subside and many women get a burst of energy. You can start doing more weight training, walk longer distances, swim and do prenatal yoga. As your belly grows, be more aware of your body mechanics and reduce your fall risk.

For the third trimester

Your energy level may start to decrease within the last 6-8 weeks of the third trimester. Your body will be changing dramatically and you’ll need to modify your exercise routine to maintain safety. The goal is to continue being active, but not as intense and for shorter durations. You will be experiencing more breathlessness, fatigue, swelling and joint discomfort, so focus on gentle stretches and strengthening, as well as postnatal yoga geared for the third trimester. Daily chores also count as exercise.

Again, these are general guidelines and none exist for women with MS who are pregnant. It’s best to incorporate parts of these recommendations that fit your lifestyle, goals and activity levels. Make sure to ask your medical team what is most appropriate and safe for you. If you have more questions about exercise routines, you can always reach out to Dr. Irina for a wellness consultation (accessible anywhere) or physical therapy if you live in California or Nevada.


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