BY DR. VIBEKE MURPHY
Changes During Pregnancy
Some of the most obvious changes during pregnancy are;
- Weight gain of between 10-20kg (sometimes more, sometimes less).
- Uterus expands up to 1000 times larger.
- Breasts get heavier and larger.
- The centre of gravity changes. As weight is gained, the weight is then shifted back over the pelvis to stop the pregnant woman from falling forward.
- Increase in lumbar lordosis (lower back curvature) and thoracic kyphosis (upper back curvature).
- The shoulders can round forward as a result of the changes in spinal curves, the change in centre of gravity and changes in breast weight.
- The hip flexors tighten.
- The pelvis tilts forward.
- Feet flatten as the arches of the feet stretch and drop.
- Abdominal muscles stretch.
- Rib cage expands.
- Women often report being more out of breath.
- There is an increase in blood volume and as a result the heart needs to work harder to pump the extra blood around the body.
- The hormone ‘relaxin’ is released throughout pregnancy and for at least six months after pregnancy.
Benefits of Excerising during pregnancy:
Women who exercise during pregnancy have been found to have less;
- Incidence of large babies.
- Incidence of gestational diabetes.
- Incidence of pre-eclampsia.
- Chance of caesarean.
- Pelvic pain.
- Urinary incontinence.
3 Beneficial and Safe Exercises:
- Abdominal exercises that keep the spine stable such as planks and bird dogs. These exercises engage the transverse abdominis
(deep abdominal core muscles) without putting strain on the rectus abdominis (superficial six pack muscles). The transverse abdominis is
critical to stabilisation of the spine. It supports the back and helps lift the pelvic floor.
- Squats are a great glute muscle builder and also a fantastic preparation exercise for labour.
- It’s incredibly important to build strength and endurance in the glutes and leg muscles during pregnancy as labour is quite the endurance event. It’s best to work on body weight squats using a fit ball against the wall, and keeping a neutral spine against the ball. Inhale to lower into the squat and exhale to lift, making sure you lift the pelvic floor muscles as you exhale and rise.
Rules to Remember When Exercising Whilst Pregnant
There are a few important rules to remember when exercising whilst pregnant.
- Firstly, is the talk test. If you can talk and not be too out of breath then you are exercising at the correct intensity.
- It’s also important to not overheat.
- As the pregnancy progresses it is best to avoid crunches, full spinal extension and twisting exercises.
- Weight training can continue however the weight should be decreased or only use body weighted exercises.
- avoid running
- Women should be mindful of their wrists as ‘carpal tunnel’ is a common pregnancy ailment.
- By the 2nd and 3rd trimester, supine exercises (lying on the back) should be avoided as the growing uterus compresses the inferior venacava.
After the Baby is Born
Initially it’s important that you treat your body like it is still heavily pregnant. An easy rule to follow is that you treat your first three months of postpartum as if you are still in the 3rd trimester, the 3-6 months of postpartum as if you are in the 2nd trimester and the 6-9 months after as if it were the first trimester. Slowly and surely, resume normal activity, intensity and endurance.
It is important to have your abdominals and pelvic floor checked by a healthcare provider to assess whether there is any muscle separation or damage.
Running and high impact plyometric type exercises should be avoided for at least six months postpartum.
Maintaining health, vitality and strength during these times helps to ensure that the mother is suitably equipped to deal with the huge changes in her body.
If you are unsure about any kind of exercise, always consult your physician or doctor beforehand.
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