October 27

Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy

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From the moment you take that pregnancy test, until that little bundle of joy is born, you want to do everything right.

You monitor your caffeine.

You monitor your food.

You avoid alcohol.

(The list goes on...)

Kennedy knew exercise was good for her and for my baby, but for the first 13 weeks, all she could do was walk to keep herself active without worsening that dreaded “morning sickness” that actually occurs all day.

In the second trimester, she was able to return to her normal activities and was enjoying weightlifting, biking and continued walking. In her last trimester, she had to modify some of her movements, but she was able to continue going to the gym until the week her daughter was born.

She was asked questions often by onlookers about whether she should be doing what she was doing; if it was safe, and undoubtedly some people disapproved of her actions.

There is still a stigma surrounding physical activity and pregnancy, but this belief is thankfully slowly changing thanks to the new research and science behind the impact of exercise and pregnancy (and its good news!).

Attitude towards exercise during pregnancy 

It is now known that “in the absence of medical or obstetrical complications, 30 minutes or more of moderate exercise on most, if not all days of the week is recommended for pregnant women." This recommendation was made by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology in 2002. However, there are still a lot of questions surrounding physical activity during pregnancy for many women.

Benefits of exercise during pregnancy

What we know now is that exercise offers many benefits for both the birthing person and the developing fetus. Some of these benefits include:

  • Reducing back aches, constipation, bloating and swelling
  • Reducing the risk of developing gestational diabetes
  • May help reduce the risk of pre-eclampsia by up to 36%
  • May help maintain a healthy weight throughout pregnancy

So, why don't more women exercise during pregnancy?

The literature shows that 70% of women decrease their physical activity levels during pregnancy. There are many proposed reasons for this. Morning sickness, caring for other children, lack of energy, fear, and lack of knowledge of how to modify or change exercise based on the different challenges and changes that each trimester brings, are only a few...

Pregnancy is a time of rapid and substantial change, and it can be difficult and overwhelming to keep up with what you “should” do and what you “shouldn’t” do. 

Some of the guiding principles we give all pregnant moms:

  1. If you were active before becoming pregnant, you are likely safe to continue your current activities. This includes things like weightlifting and running (there are some caveats to this, however). 
  2. If you are inactive before pregnancy, and would like to become more active, it is a good idea to begin increasing your activity levels slowly and incrementally. Walking, biking, swimming are all great options. 
  3. Each trimester will change what feels good to you. Honor this time and change your activity accordingly. 
  4. When choosing exercise during pregnancy, it is a good idea to weigh the benefits of the activity with the risks it poses. For example: I CAN continue to do Olympic Weightlifting during pregnancy, however, you may risk hitting your bump, your bar path becomes more inefficient, and you may be putting additional stress on your pelvic floor if you tend to hold your breath during your lifts. There are considerations for each and every sport and activity – and there are ways to modify all of them! 

If you are pregnant, or postpartum, our Pelvic Floor Physiotherapists can help you navigate how to modify exercise during these times of rapid change, while helping you maintain the integrity of your pelvic floor and maintain overall health.

References:

  1. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (1994). Exercise during pregnancy and the postpartum period: ACOG technical bulletin number 189—February 1994. International Journal of Gynecology & Obstetrics, 45(1), 65-70.

  2. Clapp III, J. F. (2000). Exercise during pregnancy: a clinical update. Clinics in sports medicine, 19(2), 273-286.

  3. Paisley, T. S., Joy, E. A., & Price Jr, R. J. (2003). Exercise during pregnancy: a practical approach. Current Sports Medicine Reports, 2(6), 325-330.


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