‘RCM comments on new CMO’s guideline for physical activity during pregnancy’

By RCM comments on new CMO’s guideline for physical activity during pregnancy’ on 29 August 2019 Leadership Director For Midwifery Specialist Midwives Education

The four UK Chief Medical Officers (CMO) have today launched new guidance on how to stay fit and healthy for all ages, but for the first time the new advice is tailored for pregnant women and new mothers.

The guidance advises on safe levels of activity for pregnant women and new mothers, and the many benefits that this can bring. The updated guidance also encourages women to speak to their midwife or a healthcare professional when it comes to any concerns they may have regarding exercise during pregnancy.

The CMO’s have confirmed within the updated guidance   that there is strong evidence that physical activity protects against a range of chronic conditions including type 2 diabetes by 40%, coronary heart disease by 35% and depression by 30%.


The CMO includes the following advice for midwives when discussing physical activity during pregnancy with women; 

  • Physical activity can safely be recommended to women during and after pregnancy and without any negative impact on breastfeeding postpartum.
  • Physical activity choices should reflect activity levels pre-pregnancy and include strength training.
  • Vigorous activity is not recommended for previously inactive women.
  • After the 6 to 8 week postnatal check, and depending on how the woman feels, more intense activities can gradually resume, i.e. building up intensity from moderate to vigorous over a minimum period of at least 3 months.



Commenting, Clare Livingstone Professional Policy Advisor at Royal College of Midwives says; “The RCM really welcomes this guidance and the clarity it provides for pregnant women and new mothers. The new advice in the form of infographics will support midwives when discussing physical activity during pregnancy and after birth with women.

“An increasing number of women are overweight when they start having a family and there are a number of potential complications ‘or pregnancy and birth, some of these being very serious, such as miscarriage and difficulties at delivery

“Evidence has shown us that exercising during pregnancy can reduce the risk of gestational diabetes and this is a condition that has increased recently and is weight related If we can reduce levels of obesity in pregnancy it could make significant improvements to the health of the mother and her baby.

“It is important to keep physically active during pregnancy - moderate exercise will not harm the woman or her baby, recreational exercise such as swimming or brisk walking is known to be beneficial. 

“The exercise pregnant women take should reflect their previous exercise regime. So for example it would not be appropriate for a woman who has done no exercise for many years to suddenly start running long distances in pregnancy. If women exercised regularly before pregnancy, they should be able to continue with no adverse effects.

“However If women have any concerns or questions the RCM advises them to speak with their midwife or GP.

“The RCM also recognises that some women may encounter barriers, such as financial hardship, community safety issues and environmental pollution where they live. We would like the Government look at ways to support women with physical activity and address health inequalities by investing in decent public services and through innovative schemes such as social prescribing.”



Note to editors

The RCM is the only trade union and professional association dedicated to serving midwifery and the whole midwifery team. We provide workplace advice and support, professional and clinical guidance and information, and learning opportunities with our broad range of events, conferences and online resources. For more information visit the RCM website at https://www.rcm.org.uk/.