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Can you Exercise During Pregnancy?

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Pregnancy results in a vast array of changes to both our physical and mental bodies. The average weight gain for women is 10-12 kg, however, this weight and load is not just on the belly. This rapid time of change creates alterations to our breathing, flow of blood and digestion of food. Hormonal changes are well known, but our emotional wellbeing and metabolic changes can be just as pronounced.

Exercise during pregnancy is both safe and beneficial for healthy women and their unborn child.

Some of those benefits include;
-Increased energy
-Reduced back and pelvic pain
-Decreased risk of complications (pre-eclampsia and pregnancy-induced high blood pressure)
-Improved posture and circulation
-Weight control and stress relief
-Faster recuperation after labour


RECOMMENDATIONS:

If you were previously active prior to pregnancy, and are experiencing a complication-free pregnancy, then you should continue physical activity until it becomes uncomfortable.

If you were inactive prior to pregnancy then you should still become active. Starting with low-intensity activities such as swimming or walking.

It is important to understand that exercise is NOT recommended for ALL pregnant women

Symptoms which indicate you should not exercise include
-Breathlessness
-Shortness of breath
-Dizziness
-Pain
-Bleeding
-Low iron levels
In any of this instances please seek attention for your medical practitioner.

What exercise should I avoid?

-Avoid hot/cold climates
-Careful not to ‘over-stretch’, gentle controlled stretching is ok
-Wide squats or lunges
-Single leg exercises
-Exercises that place shearing forces on the pubic joint (pubic symphysis)


What about after the birth of my baby?

The post-partum period is actually defined as between 6-26 weeks following birth.

This period can be very individual depending on the woman’s birth experience and the degree of tissue healing. Try not to compare yourself to friends, family or Instagram personalities. Your recovery is unique and tries to listen to your body.

As a general rule, pelvic floor contractions can be introduced prior to six weeks. If you are feeling up to it you can also start some light exercise such as walking within the first few weeks.

PELVIC FLOOR EXERCISES:
The latest recommendations from Sports Medicine Australia are;

Frequency:
At least 8-12 contractions
3 times a day
3-4 times a week

Intensity:
Maximal
-Slow and fast squeezes

Time:
Vary the duration of the ‘squeeze’ from between 4-30 seconds

Position:
Try different positions, including sitting forward, sitting upright, kneeling, lying down and standing


Make sure you do not ‘try to stop the flow of your urine’ this can lead to retention of the bladder and increase the risk of infection.

If you have given birth via caesarean remember that this is MAJOR abdominal surgery, and it is extremely important that you follow strict lifting and activity instructions within the first two months.

It is common for women to experience pain and musculoskeletal fatigue post-partum. During this time try to maintain appropriate postures (particularly when breast feeding and holding your baby). The risk of injury is high during this time due to hormonal changes, blood loss, fatigue, dehydration and loss of energy associated with breast feeding.

During this period please heed the advice of your local osteopath, physiotherapist or general practitioner. Under their guidance, you can receive individual advice specific to your situation.

Some great resources during this time include;

- The Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA)
- The Royal Women’s Hospital
- Sports Medicine Australia Position Statement, Exercise in Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period

I was lucky enough to attend a seminar ‘Effective Management of Post-Partum Women’ hosted by Dr Prue Eddie at the Balwyn Community Centre. Prue is an Osteopath at Koru Natural Therapies and has extensive knowledge and training in the area pregnancy and post-partum management. Thank you, Prue, for running a fantastic course. If you would like any more information on Prue, her practice or the courses she runs please visit her website.
http://korunaturaltherapies.com.au


Bibliography

Better Health Channel. (2012). The Benefits of Postnatal Exercise. Retrieved from Better Health Channel: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/postnatal- exercise
Eddie, P. (2018). Understanding post-partum women. Melbourne.
Hayman, M. (2016). New Exercise in Pregnancy Guidelines. Retrieved from Sports Medicine Australia: http://sma.org.au/2016/09/new-exercise-in-pregnancy- guidelines/
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