I think the majority of us know we should aim to exercise daily (at least regularly a few times per week), it is not uncommon to see expectant mothers confused about the safety of exercising throughout pregnancy. This can be a big issue for active women.
There are many benefits to remaining active, and as long as you have no contraindications to exercise (eg pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure) or placenta previa (placenta is blocking the cervix)) most forms of exercise can be completed safely while pregnant, and offer a number of benefits. Over my time working with active pregnant women, I have found these benefits:
Reduced Pain and Discomfort: Pregnancy comes with a wide range of aches and pains, particularly in the hips and lower back, such as pelvic girdle pain and sciatica. It can be a result of a number of changes that occur during pregnancy. Staying active through pregnancy can assist in maintaining the required strength and mobility to minimise this pain (Bogaert, J., et al, 2018). However, if you notice your pain is getting in the way of the things you enjoy, it is time to see a Physiotherapist. Through a combination of hands-on therapy, specific exercise and support tools we can keep you as comfortable and mobile as possible throughout your pregnancy.
Minimise Diastasis Recti: Diastasis recti, or abdominal separation, is extremely common in pregnancy. But did you know regular exercise reduces the total amount of separation, and also significantly reduces the post-natal recovery time for the abdominal muscles. Just to be clear, it's NOT abdominal muscles that is linked with this, it is regular whole body exercise! If you are unsure of what to do to optimise recovery from diastasis recti, physiotherapy can help with exercises to strengthen and retrain your abdominal muscles (Chiarello, C,. et al, 2005).
Reduced Fatigue: Remaining physically active throughout pregnancy has been shown to improve energy levels allowing you to keep doing everything that you love (Ward-Ritacco C,. et al, 2016).
Improved Mood: The mental benefits are just as recognised as the physical! Most people have heard of post-natal depression, but did you know that pre-natal depression is also an issue? This is related to changes in hormones, and for many women, a change in role and lifestyle. The good news is that by keeping active at least 3 times per week you are significantly less likely to experience this (Gaston A; Prapavessis H., 2013)
Better Labour: Research has indicated that remaining active throughout can lead to a shorter labour, with less chance of requiring medical interventions such as caesarean sections (Barakat, R., et al 2018, Domenjoz, I., et al 2014)
Reduce Pelvic Floor Dysfunction: With all the extra weight that your pelvic floor has to carry while you are pregnant, it is important to regularly do pelvic floor exercises throughout AND following your pregnancy. If you are unsure if you are doing these exercises correctly, or you aren’t getting the results you would like, physiotherapy can help.
As a final word, everyone's journey is different. Some have a harder time with pain and function than others. If you have pain and discomfort and would like to remain active for longer, we can help get you moving in the right direction.