Becoming pregnant on your first, second or even sixth child is an exciting time. There are a lot changes ahead that will have an affect your body during the months leading up to the new arrival.
So what happens when you become pregnant?
From conception your body starts to release hormones (relaxin) which help your body relax in preparation for labour and delivery. The stomach muscles become stretched as the baby grows and the weight of the baby pressing down on the pelvic floor can cause weakness. As the baby grows you centre of gravity changes which can affect your balance and proprioception. The abdominals, pelvic floor muscles and gluteal muscles become weak while the Adductors Piriformis and Quadratus lumborum can become tight.
Why exercise during pregnancy?
It is important to maintain or improve your fitness during pregnancy to help reduce any aches and pain, to encourage a better position of your baby for delivery, to reduce risk of clots and to prepare the body for labour. Strengthening pelvic floor and lower abdominal muscles during pregnancy can help improve the second stage of labour (pushing stage) can help reduce pelvic girdle pain and reduce post natal problems such as urinary incontinence and separation of the tummy muscle (Diastasis Rectus Abdominals Muscles).
What exercise to avoid during pregnancy?
While it's important to exercise during pregnancy it's even more important to make sure you know the exercises that you should NOT be doing when pregnant. Here we look at 7 different types of exercise to avoid during pregnancy.
- Contact sports - any sport which involves any direct body contact, especially involving speed or increased risk of falling such as horse riding or cycling.
- Avoid lifting any weigh greater than 10lbs repeatedly (for those with toddlers this may be hard so try to minimise too much carrying, try getting down to their level)
- Avoid deep squatting and lunging as this can place too much pressure on the already relaxed ligaments around the pelvis
- Avoid lying on your back for more than 2 minutes while exercising as it may affect the pressure of the blood flow in the vena cava.
- Avoid exercising in excessive heat including heated yoga/steam rooms and saunas.
- Avoid sit ups/roll ups or double leg lifts in Yoga/Pilates as this can place too much pressure on the abdominal.
- High impact such as aerobics or step aerobics, due to increase impact on joints that are already in a relax sate.
So it's great to know the exercises not to do but which are safe for someone expecting? Lets look at some safe exercises you can practice when pregnant.
- Swimming/Aqua Aerobics
- Pregnancy Yoga/Pilates
- Stretching (Get advice from someone first about which to perform and how to correctly)
- Breathing exercises
Who should not exercise?
As with everything there are exceptions to the rule. Everyone who is pregnant should talk to their GP or consultant before they start a new exercise programme and should always inform instructors about their pregnancy if attending a class, but there are a few conditions where exercise would not be recommended.
- Bleeding or spotting during pregnancy
- Low lying placenta
- History of miscarriage or threatened miscarriage
- History of early spontaneous labour or premature births
- Weak cervix
So now you know about the basics about exercising when pregnant. The next step is checking out what your GP or consultant thinks you should be doing to exercise. Also it is useful to remember that we have some physiotherapists who specialise in Women's Health issues and can help ease pain and keep you fit during your pregnancy.