For many pregnant women, exercise during pregnancy can be daunting but recent guidance from the UK Chief Medical Officers recommends that pregnant women with no medical restrictions should be completing 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week. This should reflect activity levels pre-pregnancy and include a combination of cardiovascular exercise and at least two sessions of muscle strengthening activities.
Benefits for keeping active during pregnancy including preventing excessive weight gain, gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, back or pelvic pain and urinary incontinence. Exercise can also improve mood and sleep which are commonly a challenge during pregnancy. It can also help you to adjust with the changing shape and bodyweight and prepare you for the physical challenges of vaginal delivery or caesarean and facilitate the postnatal recovery after the birth of your baby.
Pregnancy can also be a time of major emotional changes. Many women suffer alterations in mood and even prenatal depression. Women who keep fit during pregnancy are more relaxed and cope better with the emotional and physiological strains of pregnancy. This is attributed to a number of positive effects from exercise such as weight management, better body image and self-esteem, improved sleep, and increased energy levels.
For substantial health benefits, it is best to incorporate a variety of aerobic activities:
- Brisk Walking
- Stationary cycling
- Low Impact Aerobics
- And Resistance training activities and body weight exercises such as:
- Antenatal Pilates or Yoga – This can include breathing, core strength, postural, and stretching exercises
- Pelvic floor muscle exercises – Strengthening the pelvic floor muscles will help to reduce the risk or avoid incontinence during or after pregnancy. Learning how to relax the Pelvic floor muscles can help during labour.
Post Natal Care
After your baby is born, it is important to follow a series of exercises to strengthen the muscles which have been stretched by pregnancy and birth. This will help to prevent backache, promote correct posture and help you regain your figure more quickly. Your circulation and breathing will also benefit. If you had a straightforward birth, you can start gentle exercise as soon as you feel up to it but it’s usually a good idea to wait until after your 6-week postnatal check before you start any high-impact exercise, such as aerobics or running.
Pelvic Floor exercises
Pelvic floor exercises are vital as the pelvic floor is under strain in pregnancy as it has to carry the extra weight of your baby and is also weakened by hormones. During delivery the muscles will be stretched to their capacity. Pelvic floor exercises will help prevent weakness, maintain muscle tone and improve control. It is also important to be able to work your pelvic floor muscles quickly, so they can react to sudden stresses such as coughing, laughing or exercise (which puts pressure on the bladder).
Lower abdominal exercises will also help with abdominal muscle separation. The two abdominal muscles (rectus abdominis) that run down the middle of the abdomen often separate during pregnancy because of your growing womb pushing them apart causing them to become longer and weaker.
At the Home Physio Group, our physiotherapists can create a custom program for you if you would like exercise guidance during and after your pregnancy.
For more information please contact us on 0330 335 1016 or alternatively please fill out our contact sheet and we will get back to you.