What does exercise look like in your pregnancy?
It’s normal to feel fatigue, nausea, and aches and pains in pregnancy. That doesn’t make it any more comfortable! Each pregnancy is different, and these symptoms will likely ebb and flow. Exercise in pregnancy is important, but what you can or want do for exercise might be different than what you had planned. Movement is great for managing normal aches and pains. Exercise in pregnancy can also be painful – you can make it more comfortable by reducing the challenge or changing the movement. Shorter sessions of exercise at lower intensity can help you conserve energy. A pelvic physical therapist can help with planning exercise in pregnancy that works for you!
Pelvic floor muscle exercise for pregnant women
Pelvic floor muscle training in pregnancy is safe and beneficial. There is no risk of “over-tightening” the pelvic floor before delivery. In fact, doing pelvic floor muscle training actually seems helpful in shortening the pushing stage of labor. Pelvic floor exercise also reduces the risk of developing stress urinary incontinence in pregnancy. If you’re already experiencing stress incontinence, pelvic floor muscle training can reduce or eliminate it. See more specific information about pelvic floor exercise here!
Abdominal separation (diastasis recti)
Diastasis recti abdominis (DRA) is a normal change in all pregnant bodies. It is a softening and stretching of the connective tissue that runs from sternum to pubic bone. Diastasis recti usually looks like a “coning” or “doming” outward during a challenging movement. It’s still safe and beneficial to exercise once you start to notice a diastasis! Get more information about diastasis here!
Core exercise for pregnant women
Core muscles are affected by pregnancy, but that doesn’t mean we should stop exercising them! The core works during all movement – not just during “ab exercises.” We recommend that pregnant people continue to perform strength training and cardio exercise at the appropriate level for their abilities. The “coning” of diastasis recti can tell us when an exercise is getting too challenging for the core. Because the abdominal wall changes with pregnancy, we expect this point of “coning” with exercise to change as time goes on.
For example – someone who can perform a plank on the floor in the first trimester may move to an elevated plank with their hands on the back of a couch in the second trimester. In the third trimester, they may do a plank against the wall or in a hands-and-knees position on the floor.
Heavy lifting and impact activity for pregnant women
Many, but not all, pregnant people begin to feel uncomfortable with running and jumping exercise in pregnancy. There isn’t clear evidence that impact exercise or heavy lifting are harmful to the pelvic floor in pregnancy. However, each person’s preferences and risks are different. In general, we can assume that these exercise activities will get more challenging as pregnancy progresses. How fast you run or how much you can lift will probably decrease – that’s normal.
A pelvic physical therapist can help you make the decision that feels right for you when planning your exercise in pregnancy!