Can Exercise Cause Miscarriage?


I have a confession to make. This is not my second pregnancy, it is in fact my third. 

I first discovered I was pregnant for the second time in August last year and after having a successful, although admittedly uncomfortable pregnancy with my son, I continued my usual active schedule with vigour. I made the typical dietary changes of course, ditching caffeine, alcohol and all the yummy foods we’re banned from eating in pregnancy but I saw no reason to tone down my physical activity, at least not yet, after all I was only in the first trimester. All seemed well, until bang on the 8-week mark, I went to the bathroom before bed and discovered I was bleeding. After a trip to the EPU (Early Pregnancy Unit) the following morning my worst fears were confirmed, I was loosing the baby. The whole process took around a week and after a second scan at the EPU, it was confirmed that the miscarriage had completed.

It was as you can imagine a very emotional time but I knew it was early in the pregnancy and with 1 in 5 woman miscarrying before the twelve-week mark, a very common experience. I also knew how lucky I was to already have one smiling happy child, some people don’t even have that.

I healed physically and emotionally very quickly…or so I thought. Roll on to November (a mere 6 weeks post miscarriage) when I discover I am pregnant again and the real effects of my previous miscarriage start to take hold. Yes there was the initial joy of receiving a positive pregnancy test but shortly after fear and panic set in, and my mind becomes a whirlwind of questions. What if it happens again? How will I cope with another miscarriage? What did I do to cause the miscarriage?

Now, I want to make it clear that both physicians I saw at the EPU assured me that there was nothing I did that would have caused the miscarriage, not those cups of caffeinated coffee I had before a big meeting, not carrying a kicking and screaming toddler and no, not even my exercise regime. It was simply a faulty embryo.

Yet despite this information, I began to question all that I believe in regarding exercise and pregnancy. Perhaps I just pushed myself too hard? If only I hadn’t jumped so much and why didn’t I just rest up? These thoughts were only heightened when I went to visit my GP (a very lovely, intelligent lady but not necessarily up to date on the latest pregnancy info) who advised me against exercising in my first trimester to allow the embryo to embed and avoid another miscarriage. She also suggested I visit the EPU at around the 7 week mark for an early scan to check everything was developing smoothly.

Terrified that she was right and exercise will cause another miscarriage, I spent the next few weeks replacing my usual Kayla Itsines Bikini Body Guide workouts with power walking (on an incline) on the treadmill. Knowing that I was taking my GP’s advice and doing what is presumably best for my unborn child helped ease my worries, however it also bought up an array of other emotions. Exercise is and always has been my form of stress reliever and anti-depressant. I hadn’t taken a full week off exercise in almost a year, not even when I was miscarrying, so the idea of two months or more off exercise bought a whole new set of anxieties. Along side my worry and paranoia, my moods lowered and I felt permanently on edge…again not great for pregnancy, since stress is a known trigger for early miscarriage.

I had completed two weeks of doing nothing but power walking by the time of my early scan at the EPU and by this point I was an emotional wreck. Thankfully and much to my disbelief, all was ok and a heartbeat was seen. Along side this relief, my practitioner talked through my worries and assured me that as long as I am not doing anything that my body is not used to, it is perfectly fine to exercise during pregnancy. ‘Do I think Jessica Ennis just suddenly stopped her training when she discovered she was pregnant, no of course not, she would have simply made adaptions along the way. If something is going to go wrong with the pregnancy no amount of bed rest will change that.’

After hearing this advice from a specialist in early pregnancy, I felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders and I returned to my usual exercise regime the following day. This time however, unlike my previous pregnancy I decided to make some pregnancy friendly adaptions, just to be on the safe side.

These adaptions include;

  • Removing all jumping exercises and replacing them with static versions of the exercise.

  • Focusing on strength building circuits instead of cardio and incorporating weights where appropriate.

  • Swapping my intense fifteen-minute HIIT sessions with longer thirty-five to forty-five minutes power walking (on an incline) or cycling sessions.

For further examples of the adaptions I made during my first trimester check out my prenatal exercise video's with Bumps and Burpees including; 4 Effective Leg Exercises For The First Trimester of Pregnancy and 3 Upper Body Exercises For Your First Trimester.

Does fear of miscarriage prevent you from doing things you would normally do? Share your story in the comments below.