You’ve found out the exciting news of the newest addition to your family and after the excitement settles you wonder if it’s still safe to exercise during your pregnancy. The general consensus is that exercise is beneficial to the pregnant woman but on an individual basis. Some benefits of exercise during pregnancy include; avoidance of excessive weight, maintenance of muscle tone and fitness, less backache, less water retention, and shorter postpartum recovery. Mild to moderate exercise routines can continue during pregnancy and doing these exercises three times a week is preferable to intermittent activity.
Let’s talk about two examples of pregnant women; one is active and one isn’t as active. The active individual exercised several times a week doing heavy lifting, cardio, and yoga. The other would take walks on the weekends with her dog. Both of these women have a very similar due date. One of the most important things to do for both women is to check with her obstetrician to be sure that she does not have a high-risk pregnancy. Some examples of high-risk pregnancy include; hypertensive disorders to pregnancy, incompetent cervix, uncontrolled type I diabetes, cardiovascular disorders, or multiple gestations. If both women have been ruled out by their obstetrician and have been exercising prior to pregnancy she should be able to continue the activities with moderations as the pregnancy evolves. Both women can now keep up with their pre pregnancy exercise routine. It’s important for both women to stop exercising when fatigued and do not exercise to exhaustion. It’s also important to avoid exercises in the supine position after the first trimester and prolonged periods of motionless standing should be avoided as well.
As the second and third trimester arrives, both women will need to reduce intensity of their exerciser programs. In the active individual, the weight intensity will be lowered and body weight versions of the exercises should be recommended. The other individual should be taking more breaks when walking and if walking becomes to difficult cycling or swimming should be recommended since those are non-weight-bearing exercises. Modifications are critical during pregnancy because the body is constantly changing. Joint laxity occurs due to the increase of the hormone relaxin. This causes the joints and ligaments to become loose to allow for the growth of the fetus. Hypermobility can cause injuries in the pregnant women if modifications do not occur.
After the birth of the child most women are eager to start exercising again. It is generally recommended to wait 6-10 weeks after a cesarean section is performed. If a normal birth is performed, waiting for vaginal bleeding to stop and/or the postpartum check-up for your physician is normal. It’s also recommended for breastfeeding women to either nurse before exercising or collect milk for later feedings. Research has showed that lactic acid will increase in the breast milk and this can cause the baby to reject this milk!
In conclusion, each pregnancy journey is both challenging and wonderful. Each women requires specific individualized care detailed to their physical abilities. As a sports chiropractor I have helped several patients successfully navigate this journey both from the chiropractic side and from the exercise side. Both chiropractic care and exercise during pregnancy have been well documented to be beneficial to the mother and fetus.
Hyde, T. E., & Gengenbach, M. S. (2007). Conservative management of sports injuries. Jones and Bartlett Publishers.
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