There has been a fair bit of movement over the past few months within Women’s health research. This has led to the release of updated guidelines for exercise during pregnancy by the Australian Government. The biggest inclusions for expectant mothers, is the importance of pelvic floor exercises as part of your exercise program and limiting long periods of sitting and standing. Exercise should be modified throughout your trimesters and individualised for each woman based on her exercise history, medical/health history, physiology, and current symptoms (if present).
Benefits of exercise during pregnancy
Staying active during pregnancy has many benefits for the health of both mum and bub, which include:
- preparing for labour and recovery
- reducing the risk of gestational diabetes
- decreasing back and pelvic pain
- reducing the risk of incontinence symptoms
- improved mental health, including a reduced risk of postnatal depression
If you and your baby are healthy, exercise should aim to meet the physical activity guidelines for adults. This means you should be physically active most days, but preferably everyday equaling to:
- 5 – 5 hours of moderate intensity exercise
- 25 – 2.5 hours of vigorous intensity exercise
- An equivalent combination of moderate and vigorous activities
- Resistance based activity at least twice per week
- Include pelvic floor exercise
Remember any physical activity is better than none but should be monitored due to the physiological changes that occur.
Whilst starting or continuing to exercise during your pregnancy is important, there are some exercise modifications to consider as well as activities to avoid, to keep you and bub safe. These include:
- Exercising with heavy loads
- Activity that gives you pain or discomfort
- Limiting long periods of sitting and standing
(Remember: your next posture is your best posture)
- Avoid contact sports or those with a high risk of falls
(Think sports such as skiing & footy)
- Avoid exercise in hot and humid environments
- Avoid exercise at high altitudes (>2000m)
- Avoid activities with significant changes in pressure (such as sky diving or scuba diving)
- Consider your exercise clothing, ensuring you have appropriate shoes to reduce risk of falling, non-restrictive clothing and a supportive bra
Returning to exercise after birth
The key here is a gradual return to exercise and recommended levels of physical activity. This is generally safe after your 6-week postnatal check, but varies depending on your individual birthing experience, any complications throughout your pregnancy and any health conditions. Once you are ready to return to exercise the first step is a postnatal check with a Women’s Health Physiotherapist to assess pelvic health, Diastasis Recti (abdominal separation) and pain. Once referred back to your Exercise Physiologist, the postpartum exercise journey begins. This journey may include starting exercise for the first time, reducing fatigue, returning to running or impact sports/exercise or reducing symptoms post birth.
If you have a pre-existing health condition, previous high-risk pregnancy, are symptomatic or unsure of where and/or how to start exercise then book an appointment with our Exercise Physiologist to guide you through this process.