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Can I exercise during pregnancy?

Pregnancy is an exciting time, but expectant mothers are sometimes unsure about how to exercise and do so safely. Exercise is important during pregnancy as it helps to keep your body strong and ready for labour, improve your cardiovascular function, reduce musculoskeletal aches and pains, control excessive weight gain, improve your pelvic floor and speed up recovery after birth. It can also help reduce swelling in your legs, reduce the risk of gestational diabetes and high blood pressure, reduce the incidence of muscle cramps and can also improve your mood.

There are many changes happening to the body during pregnancy, which means some modifications to the type and intensity of exercise is required as you progress through your pregnancy.

Here are some key areas to focus on during pregnancy

Pelvic Floor It is important to have a well-functioning pelvic floor. These are the muscles that maintain continence, pelvic posture and are basically keep your abdominal contents in (including your growing baby)! They work as a muscular sling from your pubic bone at the front to the tail bone at the back.

Cardio Exercise and Running

Cardiovascular Exercise is especially important during pregnancy to control gestational diabetes, excessive weight gain and maintain healthy heart and lungs for you and your baby. If you haven’t exercised previously, it’s not a good time to start a strenuous exercise regime.

If you are already a keen runner you can continue to run, however as your pregnancy progresses, you should modify your running program, such as reducing the frequency and intensity.

A goal of aerobic exercise in pregnancy should be to maintain a good fitness level throughout pregnancy without trying to reach peak fitness.

Core Strengthening

Good activation of your deep abdominal muscles help to maintain good posture, relieve back pain and speed up recovery after birth. During pregnancy your body goes through several changes. These changes can cause body aches and pains, particularly around the lower back and pelvic region. This is due to your weight changes, increased laxity (looseness) of ligaments and joints and changes to your centre of gravity as your baby grows.

Strengthening your core provides your body with stability, it’s maintaining or improving your body’s own corset to give you strength and control around your middle.

Good core activation can also help reduce the impact of rectus diastasis or DRAM during and after pregnancy. Rectus diastasis is the separation in the connective tissue of your abdominal muscles caused as your baby grows and stretches these muscles and occurs in around 2 out of 3 pregnancies.

Things to avoid when working on your core include lying on your back as this can cause you to feel lightheaded as your baby grows and avoiding strong abdominal work such as crunches.

Clinical Pilates, run by a Physiotherapist is a great way work on your core activation.

Lower Limb strengthening

Hormone and body shape changes during pregnancy commonly cause lower back and pelvic pain. Appropriate strengthening and activation exercises can help to strengthen lumbopelvic / gluteal muscles and give this area strong support.

When exercising with weights, choose low weights and perform medium to high repetitions and avoid lifting heavy weights altogether.

Upper Body strengthening

When you baby is born, you need to be strong enough to lift your bub in and out of their cot, hold them while feeding, carry the baby capsule, the pram, the baby bag, the list goes on.

Improving your upper limb strength will reduce the risk of overuse injuries in your shoulders and elbows, avoid upper back strain and help you focus on the most important job at hand.

Where to start?

There is no recipe of exercise prescription for expectant mothers. There are many factors that need to be considered such as current level of fitness, pregnancy or health complications, aches and pains, previous history of injury, number of weeks pregnant and current pelvic floor and core condition.

Physiotherapy and exercise prescription

A physiotherapist can perform an assessment that will guide your treatment and exercise prescription. Physiotherapists have a sound knowledge of physiology and anatomy, and based on your assessment, can recommend an appropriate exercise program tailored to your preferred interests (whether you have a gym membership, prefer exercising at home or are interested in joining Clinical Pilates).

Elite Physiotherapy provides physiotherapy assessment, treatment of pregnancy related aches and pains and specialise in pregnancy related exercise prescription. Pre- and Postnatal classes are also available (health rebates apply).

Contact Elite Physiotherapy on 8941 8555 for an appointment today.

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