Six Myths About Prenatal Nutrition and Exercise

by Allison Bush Editor

Myth #1: If you’re pregnant, you need to eat for two.

Fact: In reality, you should be eating for one, plus a very small person (the size of a pea during the first trimester). That said, most women need to consume only an extra 300 calories per day, unless they’re extremely active. By the second trimester, you should increase your daily calorie intake by 350 calories, and toward the end of your pregnancy, you can eat an extra 500 calories per day. Of course, this is for the general population, so speak with your doctor regarding your own situation.

Myth #2: Pregnant women should avoid doing any abdominal exercises.

Fact: Pregnancy is a great time to work the abdominal muscles, since you’ll especially need their help during labor, delivery and recovery. You’ll just need to change how you do them. For example, you shouldn’t be on your back for more than a couple of minutes following the first trimester, so no crunches or sit-ups. However, there are many core exercises you can do sitting, standing or down on all fours.

Myth #3: If you did not exercise routinely before your pregnancy, you should not start while pregnant.

Fact: Women can begin exercising at any time – the key is to build up gradually and be consistent. Healthy pregnant women should get at least two hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week. It's best to spread your workouts throughout the week. If you regularly engage in vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, you can keep up your activity level as long as your health doesn't change and you talk to your doctor about it throughout your pregnancy.

Myth #4: Pregnant and nursing women should avoid eating all fish.

Fact: Women who are or who may become pregnant - even nursing mothers - need 12 ounces of fish per week to reap the health benefits. Unfortunately, some pregnant and nursing women do not eat any fish because they worry about mercury levels in seafood. Women can safely eat a variety of cooked seafood, but should steer clear of fish that may have high levels of mercury, including swordfish, tilefish, king mackerel and shark. Also, don’t eat uncooked fish or shellfish (such as clams, oysters, scallops). This includes refrigerated uncooked seafood labeled nova-style, lox, kippered, smoked or jerky.

Myth #5: The shortness of breath pregnant women experience is an indication they should stop exercising.

Fact: The shortness of breath that women experience in pregnancy is due to elevated levels of the hormone progesterone, which stimulates breathing and improves the transfer of gases between mom and baby. Women may feel short of breath, but their lung capacity remains normal.

Myth #6: If you exercise too much, you may steal nutrients from your baby and stunt its growth.

Fact: The truth is that your baby will get what it needs, one way or the other, even if it means depleting your nutrient stores. The best thing you can do is make sure you’re eating properly and maintaining your blood sugar throughout the day.

Sources: “Eating Well During Pregnancy.” Retrieved from

Scritchfield, Rebecca. “Myths and Facts: Exercising While Pregnant.” Retrieved from

Allison Bush
Meet Our Writer
Allison Bush

Allison Bush is a former HealthCentral editor who covered a wide range of health topics.