Can I exercise during pregnancy? What type of exercise is safe? I wasn’t exercising regularly before pregnancy, shouldn’t I avoid it during?
These are some of the commonly asked questions we get from women who are pregnant. There is a lot of confusing and outdated information that women are given regarding the safety of exercise during pregnancy, so we’ve put together a quick guide to help address some of the common concerns…
Firstly, the benefits of exercise generally are well known, In Australia, we are encouraged to aim for 250-300 minutes of moderate-high intensity exercise per week. So how does this change when a women falls pregnant?
The most current guidelines (they have changed a lot over the years!) for exercise during pregnancy state: ‘In the absence of contra-indications, women should be encouraged to participate in moderate intensity aerobic and strength conditioning exercises for 30 mins or more. This should occur on most, if not all days of the week.’ This means even if you weren’t fit prior to being pregnant you can still be given the all clear to start an exercise regime to benefit both you and your growing bub!
So what are the benefits of exercising during pregnancy?
Apart from simply maintaining your fitness levels, exercise in pregnancy can:
- Shorten labour
- Maintain a healthy weight and prevents obesity in pregnancy
- Quicken post-natal recovery
It also reduces the incidence of:
- Insomnia, stress and depression
- Gestational diabetes mellitus by 30% and improves glycaemic control
- Caesarean section and instrumental deliveries
- Pelvic girdle pain and other musculoskeletal discomfort
- Abdominal separation
- Incontinence- when pelvic floor exercises have been incorporated
Wow that’s a long list, and it’s only the benefits for mum!
So…how can you choose the right exercise?
During Pregnancy you should aim to maintain or moderately improve fitness levels rather than achieve peak fitness. This should combine both aerobic and strength training and concentrate on maintaining your co-ordination, strength and mobility.
Pregnancy friendly exercise includes walking, swimming/aqua, supported or supervised weights (these should be adjusted regularly as your body changes) and specific prenatal Pilates or Yoga classes.
What should I consider when exercising during pregnancy?
- Avoid exercising on your back after 16 weeks.
- Be aware of the hormonal changes in your body, and how they affect your movements. Due to increased laxity through the connective tissues, you can be more injury prone!
- Focus on strength and endurance of the pelvic floor, abdominals, gluts and back to help support your body as it changes.
- As your pregnancy progresses, your centre of mass will change due to your growing bub, this can have a large impact on your posture and balance.
- Be more conscious of your breathing while exercising, and ensure you can breathe comfortably throughout each exercise.
- Listen to your body! Some days just doing gentle walking or stretches will be enough, others you’ll be able to work a bit harder!
When should I avoid or cease exercise?
- If you have been advised by a medical practitioner due to high risk pregnancy.
- If you have any poorly controlled pre-existing medical conditions (such as high BP).
- Persistent second or third trimester bleeding.
- Preeclampsia/ pregnancy induced hypertension.
- Placenta previa; Incompetent cervix, ruptured membranes, premature labour.
- Feelings of dizziness, weakness or pain during exercise.
Benefits of Pilates during Pregnancy
At Waverton Physio we offer specific Prenatal Pilates classes, these utilise different props to help make exercise more comfortable (while challenging your strength and control). One of the main differences between regular Pilates and Prenatal Pilates are the positions we do the exercises in and the main focus of the class.
Unlike regular Pilates where many exercises are performed on your back or stomach, these positions are not used in the Prenatal Pilates due to changes that occur through pregnancy. Instead the focus is on appropriate abdominal and pelvic floor control, pelvic and gluteal strength and stabilisation and arm and back strength. This is help you not only throughout the pregnancy, but to ensure you’re strong for all the lifting you’ll be doing with the new bub.
If you would like any further information on our Prenatal Pilates or general advice on appropriate exercise during pregnancy please feel free to contact our physios, or email Rhyannon@wavertonphysio.com.