Gone are the days of the 1950’s when pregnant women were discouraged from doing anything other than light household duties.
Medical experts now agree that there are many physical and psychological benefits to be gained from regular exercise during pregnancy. Some of these benefits include reducing swelling, fatigue and insomnia, and assisting in the management of gestational diabetes.
Exercise and Pregnancy Guidelines
These exercise and pregnancy guidelines are by Women’s Health Physiotherapist Taryn Watson help you exercise safely and stay well.
At the very least, try to include the following two types of exercises:
1. Cardiovascular Exercises and Pregnancy
- 30 minutes of cardiovascular fitness exercise on most days if you are feeling well
- Low impact options are best for your joints and pelvic floor in pregnancy e.g. aqua aerobics, walking or riding an exercise bike
- Always make sure you can still hold a conversation at the same time to avoid over-exertion
2. Pelvic Floor Exercises and Pregnancy
- 3 sets of pelvic floor exercises per day
- Up to 10 long contractions (exercises)
- Hold each contraction for up to 10 seconds
But did you know that approximately half of women are doing these exercises incorrectly?
It is highly recommended to seek guidance from a Women’s Health & Continence Physiotherapist to ensure that you are doing pelvic floor exercises for pregnancy correctly and have the optimal program in place for you
3. Strength/Toning Exercises and Pregnancy
- 30-60 minutes a few times per week.
- Focus on maintaining optimal posture as your body changes
- No exercises lying on your back after 16 weeks to prevent decreased blood flow to your baby
- Avoid sit ups, planks or other upper abdominal exercises after the ‘6 pack muscle’ (Rectus Abdominus) has started to separate. This is also about 16-18 weeks.
- Single leg weight-bearing exercises can aggravate pelvic girdle pain, so do these exercises with care and stop if they cause any discomfort.
4. Regular Stretching Exercises and Pregnancy
- Take care to control your stretching exercises within a comfortable range – the pregnancy hormone relaxin allows extra flexibility and joints can be damaged with over-stretching.
Additional Tips for Exercise and Pregnancy:
There is so much exercise and pregnancy information out there to sift through – how do you know that the exercise you choose to do is the best option for you and your unborn baby?
Unfortunately some exercises can predispose you to injury and associated problems; pelvic floor muscle strain, urinary incontinence, prolapse after childbirth, pelvic joint pain, abdominal muscle separation and more.
There are two main pieces of advice that I give to pregnant women:
1. Have a pregnancy assessment by a Continence & Women’s Health Physiotherapist.
Physiotherapists can assess your core muscle activation and together you can plan an individualised exercise program for your pregnancy and beyond.
2. Find a professionally trained pregnancy Pilates, Yoga or hydrotherapy instructor experienced in the delivery of pregnancy exercise classes.
Attending pregnancy exercise classes regularly from early in your pregnancy can have widespread benefits for your core, flexibility, strength and posture, as well as preparing for labour and new motherhood. A good quality pregnancy exercise DVD is ideal to maintain these gains at home in between classes.
The social benefits of meeting other women to compare notes with is an added bonus!
So remember – it is important to keep fit during your pregnancy, but it is even more important to do it safely! Seek guidance from specialist health professionals where you can, and empower yourself with the knowledge you need to meet the physical challenges of pregnancy and new motherhood.
About Physiotherapist Taryn Watson
Taryn is a highly trained Western Australian Physiotherapist. She works treating pelvic floor dysfunction in women and men and in the delivery of therapeutic exercise classes including Pilates. Taryn has a special interest in treating, managing and exercising with women in the childbearing years. She has produced a Pregnancy and Exercise DVD to help women exercise safely and effectively during pregnancy FitRight Pilates Pregnancy Exercises DVD.
Taryn holds a Masters in Clinical Physiotherapy (Continence and Women’s Health) and Post Graduate Certificate in Clinical Physiotherapy (Continence and Women’s Health) in addition to her undergraduate Physiotherapy qualifications.