Benefits of Exercise for Pregnancy?
When it comes to pregnancy and exercise, everyone has their own opinion on what a pregnant woman should be doing, or shouldn’t for that matter. Many pregnant women are advised to “rest up” or “avoid movement.” Many even assume their options are very limited to gentle yoga, pilates or hydrotherapy. Rumours often petrify a newly pregnant mum as to what they can and can’t do, hindering their usual exercise routine and avoiding safe exercises for the entirety of their pregnancy, because someone once said it could be dangerous for the baby.
So, who do we believe? Accredited Exercise Physiologists are university qualified health professionals, who specialise in designing safe and effective exercise programs and interventions for chronic conditions, neurological diseases and pregnancy. Here at Align Health Solutions we work closely with the pregnant or postpartum mother to deliver a tailored program specific to their needs. We also offer in-house Women’s Health practitioner services from our Exercise Physiologist.
Regular physical activity promotes many health benefits at any stage of life, particularly during pregnancy and postpartum. Exercise during pregnancy has many benefits and little risk, with some modifications necessary to adapt to the changing uterus size as the baby grows and adapting to medical complications along the way. Regular physical activity during pregnancy can assist with weight management, reduce the risk of gestational diabetes, enhance psychological well being and minimise potential perinatal complications for mother and baby.
So what can I do in the 1st Trimester?
We know exercise is medicine and is safe during pregnancy and supported by research. If you are new to exercise and this is your first time being pregnant, just start slowly and gradually progress until you are achieving 150-300 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity. If you are newly pregnant and experiencing morning sickness it may be more difficult to achieve those recommended guidelines of physical activity. In this case, it may be beneficial to speak to your Accredited Exercise Physiologist and they can design a safe exercise program specific to your needs. Regular exercise before and during pregnancy, especially in the first trimester may have a protective effect and reduce the risk of gestational diabetes.
After 28 weeks of pregnancy, your Exercise Physiologist should be modifying your program to avoid supine exercises (laying on your back) and some specific pilates exercises. This semester should be focused on resistance training and walking predominantly. Attention should be paid to pelvic floor exercises daily, strengthening the fascia, ligaments and muscles that make up the pelvic floor to support the growing uterus is key in this phase of pregnancy. An Accredited Exercise Physiologist should be able to help cue the correct techniques of pelvic floor activation safely.
In the final trimester, it is safe to focus on pelvic stability exercises and one can achieve this by swimming, walking, pilates or some weighted exercises. At this stage of the pregnancy, it may be important to avoid running or high impact sports. As the pelvic floor muscles, fascia and ligaments surrounding the area become lax and are working to support the large uterus, adding additional downward pressure can weaken the pelvic floor muscles.
Although exercise and physical activity is vital throughout one’s pregnancy. It is important to listen to your body, if one experiences any of the following they should immediately consult their medical professional for advice.
- Persistent excessive shortness of breath that does not resolve with rest
- Severe chest pain
- Vaginal bleeding
- Persistent loss of fluid from the vagina
It is also important to avoid exercising in extreme heat to prevent dehydration and increasing blood viscosity. Avoiding high impact sports or exercise is key, to avoid falling and causing impact to the abdominal region. Avoid skydiving or deep water diving, the change in air pressures or water pressures on the growing foetus can have a negative impact.
Benefits of Exercise for Postpartum:
Many myths and rumours advise women not to return to movement after 6 weeks postpartum. Well this may be true in some cases, and again this is not a one size fits all approach. A new mother can return to gentle rehabilitative exercises earlier than 6 weeks postpartum. This is a key conversation between you and your exercise physiologist. This also does not mean one can return to high impact exercise immediately after the 6 week date, the ligaments and muscles still require a healing process, some taking up to 12 months to regain full strength. Again, depending on your delivery method, with any perineal tearing, forceps use or c-section, new mothers require different approaches to exercise.
There is such a push for new mums to “return to pre body weight,” exercise is definitely a tool that has been shown to improve pelvic stability, pelvic floor strength and abdominal wall separation, yet specific to the individual! Imagine trying to combat all of those factors whilst being a new mum and navigating the challenges during postpartum. Some of our recommendations include Pilates based exercises. With our new ‘Mums and Bubs’ classes starting, there is a big focus on pelvic floor activation and control, abdominal wall strengthening and mental health.
Get in touch with an Accredited Exercise Physiologist that can help you navigate your body, from pre-conception, to pregnancy and all the way to postpartum. Here at Align Health Solutions we are excited to open up our services to mum’s at any stage of their journey.
Pregnancy services are currently underway and Mums and Bubs classes to commence April 2022. To register for our free Mums and Bubs information session in March 2022 click here!