Regular exercise is as important to a woman’s overall health during pregnancy as it is after pregnancy. A woman who was active before pregnancy can continue to be active during pregnancy, barring certain risks. Women who were previously inactive should speak to their doctor before embarking on any exercise programme during pregnancy.
A physiotherapist can be invaluable to the general health of an expecting mother and her baby. We understand the changes that take place in your body during pregnancy and we can guide you with an appropriate exercise programme.
During pregnancy, added weight gain puts excess stress on the feet and lower back. The centre of gravity shifts forward due to the growing foetus and enlarged breasts. This gives rise to increased lumbar lordosis ( excessive arching of the lower back) so often seen in pregnant women. The abdominal muscles are stretched so there is less support from these core muscles which means the calf muscles have to work overtime to maintain balance while fighting the ever-changing centre of gravity. Exercising during pregnancy can help the woman improve her posture and balance.
Some benefits of exercise during pregnancy are:
- Reduce weight gain during pregnancy and facilitating weight loss after pregnancy.
- Decrease pelvic floor weakness which can lead to urinary incontinence.
- Promote better sleep patterns.
- Relieve or prevent low back pain.
- Promote a feeling of well-being.
- Strengthen muscles in preparation for delivery.
- May prevent gestational diabetes.
- Increase flexibility.
- Improve posture.
Fitness programmes should focus on safety while still being effective. Some women may experience shortness of breath with minimal exertion due to cardiovascular changes that take place during pregnancy. Women should exercise within their comfort zone and should stop at any sign of pain, dizziness, excessive fatigue, vaginal bleeding or unusual symptoms. Pregnancy is not the time to try to pump up your fitness level but it is the time to try and maintain as much of your pre-pregnancy level of fitness as possible. Swimming, walking, yoga and Pilates are all highly recommended. Women who were running or participating in high impact aerobics before becoming pregnant may continue to do so with medical approval right up until the later stages of pregnancy when it becomes physically impossible. However, be sure to consult your doctor before beginning any fitness programme during pregnancy and to discuss your programme and check its suitability at regular intervals with your doctor as your pregnancy progresses.
If you would like advice or a specific pregnancy exercise programme tailored to meet your needs, come and see us. The benefits gained from participating in a physiotherapist-designed exercise programme can enhance your pregnancy experience and prepare you for a life of continued fitness once you have your baby.