One of the most common questions asked by pregnant females is, whether exercising is safe during pregnancy or not? Pregnancy is a time of tremendous musculoskeletal, physical and emotional change but we can maintain wellness by doing exercises with moderation. Exercises play a major role, as long as your pregnancy is healthy and don’t have any health complication. Exercising during pregnancy does not increase the risk of miscarriage, low birth weight babies, or preterm labour. Although exercising is safe but you should always consult your physiotherapist before exercising. Exercising is not advisable during few complications like hypertension, cardiovascular problem, low lying placenta, triplet or twin pregnancy, or short cervix.
Why should we exercise during Pregnancy?
Pregnancy, which spans 40 weeks from conception to delivery, is divided into three trimesters. There are characteristic changes during each trimester. Considerable changes occur in the women’s body as the pregnancy progresses. The changes can be:
· Pregnancy weight gain.
· Organs increase in size.
· Posture and balance changes.
· Diastasis recti.
· Low back pain and pelvic pain.
· Varicose veins.
· Pelvic floor dysfunction and urinary incontinence.
· Joint laxity.
· Compression syndrome.
Benefits of exercises
· Improve the stamina to endure through labour and delivery.
· Prevents the risk of gestational diabetes.
· Reduces back strains and pelvic pain.
· Reduces constipation and bloating
· Increases energy level
· Elevates mood
· Decrease swelling
· Reduces muscle cramps
· Helps sleep better
Physiotherapy during pregnancy
Exercise techniques are used by your physiotherapist to make you feel healthier and stronger during pregnancy:
· Relaxation and breathing technique:
Techniques of conscious relaxation allow you to control and cope with a variety of imposed stresses by being mentally alert. This is particularly important during labour and delivery when there are times when the women should relax and allow the physiological process to occur without excessive tension in unrelated muscles.
· Aerobic exercises:
Aerobic exercises help in maintaining your cardiovascular/ pulmonary fitness. Submaximal exercises should be done in moderation. Taking a walk, swimming, aqua or water exercises and static- cycling are beneficial. Studies have shown that mothers, who continue endurance exercises in the third trimester, their newborns have slightly better neurodevelopment status in addition to lean body mass.
· Stretching ( with caution):
Stretching exercises increases flexibility and decreases stiffness. The Upper neck extensors and scalene, scapular protractors, shoulder internal rotators and levator scapulae. Low back extensors, hip adductors and hamstrings and Ankle plantar flexors should be stretched gently.
· Strengthening ( low intensity):
Resistive exercises to appropriate muscles of upper neck flexors, lower neck and upper thoracic extensors, scapula retractors and depressors, shoulder rotators, trunk flexors, hip and knee extensors and ankle dorsiflexors, should be given with low intensity.
· Abdominal exercises and exercises for diastasis recti:
As pregnancy progresses abdominals undergo extreme overstretching. Check for the diastasis recti must always be performed before initiating abdominal exercises. Exercises like
Head lift, head lift with pelvic tilt, leg sliding, pelvic tilt exercises, trunk curls, pelvic lifts should be performed with care.
· Pelvic motion training:
These exercises help to strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor and thus help to reduce urinary incontinence (urine leakage). Kegel’s exercise can be used for strengthening the pelvic floor muscles by contracting the pelvic floor muscles for 3 -5 seconds. Relax for 3-5 seconds and repeat the contract-relax technique 10 times. It also uses the quick contraction techniques for strengthening the muscles.
· Elastic support stockings can be used to reduce the swelling.
NOTE: Drink water after every 15 minutes while doing exercises. Activities that decrease the risk of falling should be performed. All exercises should be done safely with moderation but you need to check with your physiotherapist before exercising.