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EXERCISE DURING PREGNANCY!

Congratulations on your soon-to-be new addition! Whether this is your first pregnancy or you’re a more experienced mum, you may be feeling a little lost about how to safely exercise during pregnancy.
There are often mixed messages around what we can and can’t do whilst pregnant and this can make mums-to-be feel (understandably) anxious and unsure of whether they should even exercise at all. For most people however, exercise during pregnancy is perfectly safe and should be actively encouraged. If you currently train to a very high level of impact, you may find that you need to modify your training regime, but moderate exercise is shown to be very beneficial to both mother and baby.
You wouldn’t sign up to run a marathon without training for it – pregnancy and birth is on a par with running a marathon many times over!! – the stronger and fitter you can stay during pregnancy the better prepared you are for birth and for recovery in those early postnatal days!

What is pregnancy exercise?

One of the main aims of exercise in pregnancy is to prepare the body for labour and for making a good recovery afterwards. This may mean less high impact movement than you have previously done, which could put undue pressure on the pelvic floor, and more strengthening and stamina work.

Exercise will also need to be modified for the stage of pregnancy. For example exercises on your back may need to be modified as the bump gets bigger and the pressure of the baby can affect the blood flow through the vena cava (major artery that leads to the heart) which can lower the blood supply to the placenta as well as cause you low blood pressure and dizziness.

 One of the most important areas to strengthen during pregnancy is your core. A strong stable core (which includes the pelvic floor) can help to reduce the chances of back pain, make labour easier and help with postnatal recovery.

What is the core? 

The core includes the muscles of your pelvic floor, the deep abdominal muscles, the muscles of the lower back, along your spine and the diaphragm, as well as to a lesser extent the glutes and muscles around your hips and upper back. Although each of these muscles performs a different function individually, together they create stability and movement throughout your body and support your internal organs. The ‘core’ of your ability to move and perform everyday tasks.

Your core during pregnancy

The changes that occur in your body during pregnancy can cause your core to feel weaker and more unstable. Relaxin, the hormone released during pregnancy, causes the ligaments and muscles of the body to become more flexible. This flexibility is necessary for birth but it has the unwanted effect of creating less stability, particularly in your pelvic area. Added to that your growing baby will begin to stretch your front abdominal muscles (the rectus abdominis – better known as the ‘6-pack muscles’) and cause your pelvis to tilt with the added weight, creating instability.

Having a well functioning core and pelvic floor during and after pregnancy is extremely important as it can help avoid or reduce issues such as diastasis recti (abdominal separation) and dysfunction such as incontinence.

What most of us think of as “core exercises” crunches, extended front planks and sit-ups are not recommended during pregnancy as these can increase intra-abdominal pressure and make the gap between the abdominal muscles wider (diastasis recti). So what can we do?

Safe pregnancy training to support your core and pelvic floor:

  • Work on the glutes! Strong legs and glutes will help both during labour – you’ll need those muscles for the pushing marathon that delivery can be – and in postpartum recovery. Weakness in the glutes is often a key cause of lower back pain.
  • Strong glutes support a strong pelvic floor.
  • Exercise to challenge your stability. The Bird-Dog exercise is a great one for this. From a stable position on all fours slowly lift opposite arm and opposite leg and then bring them back to starting position. Ensure your hips and shoulders stay stable and there is no arching through the back during the movement.
  • Don’t be afraid of resistance training. Doing resistance exercise with correct form, will help to strengthen your whole body and core in a safe and effective way.

A strong body with a stable, well functioning core and pelvic floor will help you achieve a more comfortable pregnancy and recover faster postnatally. Working with a pregnancy fitness specialist can help you to achieve this in a safe way for you as an individual.

Why would I need a personal trainer qualified in pregnancy exercise?

Your body is changing rapidly during pregnancy and it’s important that any fitness professional that you work with understands the changes that are taking place, the considerations that these changes require and how to modify exercise to suit the stage of pregnancy you are currently at.

A pregnancy personal trainer is someone who is qualified to train you during your pregnancy, in order to ensure the exercise you perform will keep both you and your baby safe and injury free.

The extra knowledge and experience that a pregnancy fitness specialist brings with them will enable them to create a series of exercises that are entirely customised to your physical needs. They will also be able to take into account any changes that occur throughout the pregnancy and adapt the exercise regime in accordance.

You can exercise safe in the knowledge that the person prescribing your exercise is always mindful of any issues or changes (medical, physical or emotional) that may come up and will refer you to the relevant medical or health professional, should the need arise.

What are the benefits of pregnancy exercise?

Exercise is a recipe for feeling great, whatever age or stage of life you are in, but exercise during pregnancy can have some unique benefits that make keeping active a no-brainer.

  1. You’ll have more energy. It may seem contradictory but working out when you feel tired can actually help to raise energy levels, making you feel much better than you would if you take a rest.
  2. You could have an easier time of labour. No guarantees, but being fit, strong and healthy can help you to have the stamina to go through the potential marathon that is labour and delivery of your baby.
  3. You’ll recover from labour faster. Whether you have a natural birth or c-section, maintaining your fitness and strength throughout pregnancy can help you to recover faster. Strong, healthy bodies heal faster and the fitter you are the more energetic you will be, which can only be a good thing post birth!
  4. You’ll boost your mood. According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists around 14-23% of women will experience some level of prenatal depression. Exercise helps the body to release neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine which act as mood regulators and boosters. These help combat some of the symptoms of depression and could help some women avoid the pre-baby blues altogether.
  5. You’re less likely to experience back pain. Back pain is a common complaint in pregnancy as your posture alters and ligaments stretch to accommodate the growing baby. Exercise and particularly core and strength training can help to improve posture, increase joint stability and pelvic alignment, which may just save you from the dreaded pregnancy back pain.
  6. It may help you avoid intervention during labour. Research has found that regular exercisers are around 75% less likely to have a forceps delivery, 55% less likely to need an episiotomy and around 4 times less likely to need a caesarian section. Exhaustion of the mother is often a reason for medical intervention so the more stamina you have the more likely you are to get through labour (it’s that training for a marathon analogy again!).

 

Last updated: 15th January 2019

Related article(s): Exercise after baby

 

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Let Me Train You

Looking for someone who can help you prepare for childbirth? Find out about the pregnancy & postnatal personal training packages EmilyG can offer.

With our pregnancy personal training packages you will be able to work out, at a level that is suitable for your personal needs, in a safe, guided environment. The sessions will help you to feel confident in your abilities and safe in the knowledge that the exercises being prescribed are the best ones for you and your stage of pregnancy.