Ask the Expert: Should I monitor my heart rate when exercising during pregnancy?

Question: Do I really need to keep my heart rate under 140 when exercising during pregnancy?

Monitoring your own heart rate during exercise as a way to gauge the intensity and safety of your workout is very complicated and confusing and is not the best method to use.

I’m not going to get into the science of heart rate during pregnancy here, but if you are interested, I encourage you to read “Exercising Through Your Pregnancy” by Dr. James Clapp.

To monitor the intensity and safety of your workout during pregnancy, pay close attention to how you feel. To quote Dr. Clapp, “A pregnant woman’s perception of how hard she is working using the Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale is a better index of exercise intensity than her heart rate. Borg’s scale allows the individual to numerically rate how hard she feels she is working.”

Using Borg’s scale, perceived exertion is how hard you feel like your body is working based on physical sensations you experience during physical activity, including increased respiration, increased sweating, and muscle fatigue.

Click here to download and learn more about Borg’s scale.

If the Borg scale is too confusing for you, simply pay attention to your body and how it feels. If you are able talk in 2-5 word sentences, don’t feel overexerted while exercising, and feel good after exercising, chances are your workout is just fine. If not, then decrease the intensity.


Jennifer Tucker, Fit for Expecting’s founder, is a perinatal exercise specialist, perinatal health and wellness specialist and Dr. Sears health coach.

Do you have pre or post natal exercise questions? Ask below or email  

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