It’s pretty obvious that the female body changes a lot during pregnancy, both physically but also how the soon to be mother feels in her body. This is such an exciting time, but these changes can be sudden and potentially daunting. These women may be unsure if they can exercise at all during pregnancy, what types of exercise is safe to do, and how to modify accordingly during each trimester. And it is completely normal to have these questions!
Below are 5 main areas that change during pregnancy.
- Hormonal; Relaxin increases and peaks in week 12, increasing the laxity of ligaments in the whole body.
- Cardiovascular; cardiac output (the amount of blood pumped by the heart in a minute) increases by 50% due to extra blood volume.
- Musculoskeletal; Posture changes due to extra body weight being carried. Abdominal muscles lengthening and more weight being beared down on the pelvic floor muscles.
- Respiratory; Increase in oxygen being consumed which results in more carbon dioxide being produced. This results with feelings of breathlessness, more easily. Eg. climbing a flight of stairs and then being puffed out.
- Metabolic; In early pregnancy, the body’s insulin sensitivity increases. In late pregnancy, there is a decrease in insulin sensitivity. This can have an impact on our blood glucose levels.
As we now know, the body is going through a wealth of changes in this time, so it is not uncommon for a new or pre-existing medical condition to present itself during pregnancy. These conditions can include, but are not limited to;
- Urinary incontinence
- Gestational diabetes
- Pubic symphysis disorder
- SIJ dysfunction
- Rectus diastasis
- Post-natal depression
Now with all of these changes and conditions being said, YES, it is very likely it is still safe to exercise. Your Exercise Physiologist/Physiotherapist will take all of these things into consideration and be able to help you safely exercise throughout the duration of your pregnancy. They can also help with the recovery process post-birth.
Why should I exercise during pregnancy?
Exercise and physical activity has an enormous list of benefits to the body without pregnancy, and these carry through to pregnancy too. Exercise can positively impact on metabolic changes by reducing the rates of and severity of pre-eclampsia and hypertension (high blood pressure). It is known that exercise decreases insulin resistance, therefore, potentially decreasing the likelihood of gestational diabetes. Endorphins are produced during and post-exercise, giving us that happy, feel-good feeling that aids in reducing pain and stress. This is particularly beneficial to those with post-natal depression. If you are someone experiencing incontinence, exercises can be provided that aim to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles that are now aiding in supporting the increase in pressure from growing and carrying a baby. This is only a very very short list of benefits of exercise during pregnancy, but it is evident that ultimately, exercise can decrease the severity and rate of pregnancy symptoms.
If you are in the stages of trying to conceive, are pregnant at any trimester or have recently given birth and would like to continue/start exercise but you’re unsure if it’s safe and where to start, please reach out to an Exercise Physiologist/Physiotherapist and they can guide you safely through this journey.
***Please note that every pregnancy is different and it is important to seek clearance from your GP/obstetrician. Some medical conditions may be contraindicated to exercise.