Regular exercise has many proven health benefits, but you need to take extra care during pregnancy.
Exercise helps with the increased demands on your body and with preparation for the birth of your baby. However it is important that you don’t put too much pressure on your pelvic floor, pelvic joints, back or abdomen. Hormone changes occur to help soften your ligaments and muscles in preparation for childbirth, so care needs to be taken to avoid strains.
The pelvic floor muscles are put under increasing load as the baby grows. Some exercise puts you at greater risk of bearing down with your pelvic floor, which can lead to prolapse, or problems with bladder and bowel control.
It is common to leak urine during pregnancy – but this is not normal. If you are doing exercises that cause urinary leakage then you need to modify what you are doing. If you feel a bulging or heaviness around the vaginal entrance during or after exercise, you may also need to make some changes. A pelvic floor physiotherapist will be able to assess your pelvic floor and advise you on safe exercise options.
The benefits of exercise in pregnancy:
- Improve or maintain physical fitness
- Improve muscle tone
- Help keep weight gain at appropriate levels
- 31% less chance of large baby
- Improve emotional well being
- Reduced chance of Caesarian Section by 20%
- Help prevent or manage gestational diabetes
- Help prevent or treat abdominal separation
- Improve your pelvic floor
- Improve bowel function – less chance of constipation
- Better sleep patterns
- Reduced leg cramps and swelling
Pregnant women who exercise frequently:
- Feel better about themselves and their body in pregnancy
- Less likely to experience fatigue
- Reduced anxiety
- Reduced pain perception
- Reduced muscle tension
Safe exercise in pregnancy:
- Swimming or water based exercise classes
- Stationery cycling
- Low impact aerobics
- Yoga – modified for pregnancy)
- Pilates (modified for pregnancy)
- Running, strength training – for women who have participated in these activities before (in consultation with an obstetric care provider or pelvic floor physiotherapist).
Exercises to avoid in pregnancy:
- Contact sports e.g. hockey, boxing, soccer, basketball
- Bouncing – e.g. star jumps, trampoline
- Heavy weights
- High impact activities
- Activities with a high risk of falling e.g. downhill snow skiing, water skiing, surfing, off road cycling, gymnastics, horseback riding)
- Scuba diving
- Sky diving
- “Hot yoga” and “hot pilates”
- Exercise that involves excessive twisting or turning, quick movements or sudden changes of direction or intensity
- Exercise that increases the curve in your lower back (your lumbar spine)
General guidelines for exercise in pregnancy:
- A variety of aerobic and resistance training
- 30 minutes or more per session (aim for 150 mins per week)
- Try to exercise most days (at least 3 days a week minimum)
- Moderate intensity (e.g. brisk walking)
Only 15% of pregnant women meet these guidelines – don’t be that person!
Pelvic Health Pilates / Yoga:
Our Pelvic Health Pilates / Yoga class is an ideal exercise option during pregnancy. It is designed and run by Stephanie Jones, a qualified pelvic floor physiotherapist, who is also a yoga and pilates teacher. We now have an online option available. You can feel confident that the exercise is safe for your pelvic floor, back and abdomen. The exercise will help you gain or maintain strength, flexibility and balance. Click here for more information.
If you add in some safe aerobic exercise each week (such as walking or swimming), you will meet the recommended guidelines during pregnancy.