In the past, pregnant women were discouraged from exercise due to safety concerns. Today, we know that exercise during pregnancy and the postpartum period can benefit a women’s fitness, psychological wellbeing and reduce the risk of complications, just to name a few.
Physiological changes during pregnancy
Many changes occur in the body during pregnancy and these all have an implication on how we exercise and the type of exercise that is most effective for a pregnant woman.
> The most obvious change is shift in our centre of gravity with the growing belly and increasing breast size
> The uterus itself becomes 1000x its usual size to accomodate for the baby and the weight of this is carried by the pelvic floor!
> Oestrogen – stimulate uterine and breast growth
> Relaxin – Affects collagen fibers and connective tissue to increase joint laxity in preparation for labour
> 50% increase in cardiac output (the amount of blood pumped by the heart per minute)
> Increase in resting heart rate
> Decrease in blood pressure
> Impaired ability to exercise anaerobically
> Decreased endurance and increased sense of breathlessness
> Early pregnancy we see increases in fat stores
> Later in pregnancy we see a decreased insulin sensitivity
Lower back, Pelvic and Sacroiliac joint Pain
Whilst the joys (pains) of pregnancy are usually blamed on the pregnancy and the release of hormones, there is strong evidence to suggest the culprit of pelvic and back pain is due to the changes in posture during pregnancy. There is help for this common pregnancy aliment!!!! Researches are now showing that exercise can be the best preventative and treatment for pregnancy related pelvic pain #exerciseismedicine. Instead of resting, we need to stretch and strengthen around these joints.
Rectus Abdominus Diastasis
Rectus Abdominus Diastasis (RAD) also known as abdominal separation. RAD has been shown to affect 2 out of 3 mums so is a very common issue associated with pregnancy. Rehabilitation for RAD will involve:
> Diaphragmatic breathing
> Re-training transverse abdominus, pelvic floor muscles and multifidus
> Strengthen global hip and trunk muscles
Pregnancy and labour places a huge stress on our pelvic floor. The weight of the uterus and the growing baby is held by the pelvic floor muscles. Urinary Incontinence (UI) has shown to affect 15-30% of women post partum, that almost 1 in 3!! Individualised exercises should be given to help improve the strength of the pelvic floor and reduce the incidence of UI, not all women are the same.
Where to start?
If you’re not sure where to start or how to exercise safely before, during or after pregnancy consult an Accredited Exercise Physiologist.