There are so many reasons that staying active is important during your pregnancy and we want to talk about some of them here because it’s not just about staying fit or “getting your body back” when your baby has arrived. Making sure you move every day can have a hugely positive impact not just on your pregnancy but also on your birth experience and your postnatal recovery too.
Why exercise in pregnancy:
It will help your pelvic floor (as long as it’s the right sort of exercise)
All low impact movement is pelvic floor exercise. Often in pregnancy you are told to “do your pelvic floors/kegels” but this is far too simplistic an approach to your pelvic floor health, which is something you need to be mindful of for the rest of your life when you have been pregnant and given birth. When you do a Kegel, there is the potential that you don’t create enough release in the pelvic floor and this (again) can lead to shortening and tightening of the muscle. The release of the pelvic floor is just as important as the contraction because you can’t get an overnight muscle to switch on effectively. However, movement that doesn’t put pressure on your pelvic floor is pelvic floor exercise too! So walking lots, doing low impact exercise like squats, lunges, Pilates and yoga will all help to keep your pelvic floor healthy. And don’t just take my word for it, studies show that women who have exercised during pregnancy are less likely to develop incontinence after the birth too (Perales M et al. Benefits of aerobic or resistance training during pregnancy on maternal health and perinatal outcomes: A systematic review. Early Hum Dev 2016;94:43-8..) However, despite the huge benefits to exercising, try to avoid anything high impact in pregnancy because the weight of the baby is a lot for your pelvic floor to carry even without adding impact into the equation. If you start running or jumping you are adding a lot of pressure into the pelvic floor and it really isn’t worth the risk of causing long term issues. You can get back to all of those things when you have done your postnatal rehab!
You set yourself up for a more positive postnatal recovery
How quickly you recover postnatally will depend on a whole host of things - the type of birth you had, how much support you have, how many other babies you have, how much sleep you are able to get, your nutrition and more but you will also find that if you look after your body well during your pregnancy you will feel better than you would have felt. You are also 30% less likely to have an unplanned caesarean birth if you have exercised during your pregnancy (Price BB et al. Exercise in pregnancy: effect on fitness and obstetric outcomes-a randomized trial. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2012;44(12):2263-9. Domenjoz I et al. and Effect of physical activity during pregnancy on mode of delivery. Am J Obstet Gynecol 2014;211(4):401.e1-e11.) If you can strengthen your gluts in pregnancy they will give you support when your abdominals are still finding it harder to switch on and you can also learn gentle breathing exercises during your pregnancy that will help you to reactivate your pelvic floor and abdominals postnatally.
You can influence baby’s position
Let’s not get carried away - how much you move isn’t the only thing that has an impact on baby’s positioning, they do have their own ideas as well and sometimes choose their position for good reason. However, staying active can influence how easily baby is able to choose their position for birth. When you spend a lot of time sitting, your pelvic floor shortens and tightens and it is harder to create space for the baby to find its way. When you are upright and mobile your bump is able to be free and you loosen up the connective tissue through your body which means it is easier for your body to create space for the baby. There is evidence that shows that exercise sets you up for a shorter labour and we believe this is in no small part due to the impact that staying active has on baby’s positioning (Pennick V, Liddle SD. Interventions for preventing and treating pelvic and back pain in pregnancy. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2013(CD0011):1-100.)
Other reasons that pregnancy exercise is beneficial:
* You will boost your mood and energy levels
* You can reduce constipation and backache
* It can help you to sleep better
When you are pregnant it is usually recommended that you wait until after the first trimester before starting any new types of exercise. The really key thing is to listen to your body. Even if you have been told it is OK to continue with your regular exercise during your first trimester, there are no prizes for pushing yourself when your body is telling you it wants to rest. Making a human is tiring and allowing yourself to stop is absolutely OK if that is what your body is telling you to do. You should always get the all clear from your doctor or midwife before exercising as there are certain conditions that mean exercise is not recommended. When you are exercising if you experience any of the symptoms below you should stop exercising immediately:
• Vaginal bleeding
• Increased shortness of breath before you start exercising
• Chest pain
Other warning signs to watch for include:
• Painful uterine contractions that continue after rest
• Fluid leaking or gushing from your vagina
• Calf pain or swelling
• Muscle weakness affecting balance
Make sure you look into the person who is teaching you exercise and ensure they are fully qualified and up to date in their training. You should be fully screened before you start classes and you should have the opportunity to update them on your body every time you see them. Some people did one pregnancy exercise course 10 years ago and call themselves specialists - there are lots of teachers who are much better qualified than that and will be able to support you amazingly during your pregnancy and beyond.
Centred Mums Pregnancy Pilates classes use restorative Pilates and yoga-based movement to address postural changes and demands throughout each trimester.
We can help you to maintain strength, connect you to your breath and relieve tension in your body. As we work through the exercises mentioned above, we will help you to increase your understanding of the way your body functions and naturally create space for your baby to move and to grow.
Our pregnancy Pilates classes will introduce you to positions for labour, breathing techniques and other support to prepare your body and mind for your birthing experience and beyond. You will create a new awareness of your pelvic floor and abdominals and create a foundation of deep abdominal strength that will support your baby during your pregnancy and in your postnatal recovery.
We have lots of experience in working with pregnancy-related conditions including diastasis recti, pelvic floor dysfunction (including prolapse), pelvic girdle pain, sciatica, back and neck problems and carpal tunnel syndrome.