In this blog, I will make general exercise recommendations for a low-risk pregnancy in line with national guidelines as issued by the appropriate medical regulatory bodies.
Right off the bat let me state that as a man with no direct pregnancy experience, my observations and recommendations are based on my professional experience as a Pilates teacher and Exercise Scientist.
Over the years, I have worked with countless women through their pregnancy and had the pleasure and privilege of supporting them through the physical changes they experience along the way.
Recently I have come to appreciate just how important a physical conditioning regimen like Pilates is to women as they transition into motherhood.
One key role of a Pilates studio during pregnancy is to support women who may experience associated back and pelvic pain. The function of pre-natal Pilates is to prepare the body for parenting a newborn which can be a physically demanding daily task.
Exercise in pregnancy has multiple benefits for the mother, including improved mental health, reduced risk of diabetes and hypertension and faster recovery post delivery.
If you consider the timeline of pregnancy into parenting (assuming it is a first time pregnancy and the expectant mother is usually an active person with some base fitness) pregnancy can result in a loss of physical conditioning (strength, endurance) while increasing weakness, poor posture and joint/muscular pain.
Generally, people who are very active, stay active; those who are inactive stay inactive… and those in between, stay in between.
For a period of up to say, eight months, your activity and exercise habits change substantially, especially in the final trimester when your body is more fatigued.
Although it is a challenge to exercise through fatigue and morning sickness, it is your best chance to remain pain free and thriving post-partum (from a musculo-skeletal perspective).
The physiology of pregnancy is truly fascinating – here are just some of the dramatic changes an expectant mother will experience:
- Decreased blood pressure and increased resting and submaximal heart rate;
- Increased metabolic rate / reduced ability to thermo-regulate;
- Enlarged uterusand growing fetus;
- Increased demand on pelvic floor;
- Centre of gravity changes and reverses post-partum;
- Increase in ligament laxity and joint instability.
Recommendations for Pregnancy in Pilates:
Likely, you are already a Pilates devotee, but even if you aren’t, it’s important to find the right studio to support you through your pregnancy and beyond.
Even though you are pregnant and adjustments need to be made, a comprehensively trained Pilates professional should still look at your entire body and ensure your broader postural and fitness needs are addressed.
If you are new to Pilates, start as soon as possible with a private session to find the right program for you. Then you can work out if you require some adjunct care with a qualified allied health provider to ensure a smooth pregnancy.
Considerations for Pilates – specifically for group classes:
Under agreement with your instructor, you will be able to stay in your regular class with the following adjustments:
- Minimise time supine (lying on your back) in consideration of blood pooling;
- Lying prone (face down) is generally uncomfortable, persist only with comfort;
- Exercise within tolerance for heat/dehydration;
- Exercise with pelvic comfort and seek referral should pubic/pelvic pain occur.
20 weeks and beyond
A tailored maternal health program should:
- Maximise mobility while considering change of hormonal based ligament laxity;
- Increase glute and pelvic control to reduce low back, pelvic pain and SIJ dysfunction;
- Improve scapulae stability and upper body strength in preparation for nursing and early parenting;
- Optimise core control to reduce chance of low back and pelvic pain, SIJ dysfunction;
- Increase wrist and hand endurance to prepare for manual handling tasks, specifically while feeding.
General exercise considerations during pregnancy:
Frequency: 3-4 times per week on non-consecutive days.
Duration: Accumulate 150-300mins of moderate intensity PA per week.
There is no conclusive evidence for an upper limit on session duration, but it’s best to stay under 60 minutes per exercise session and observe your general condition to avoid over-heating.
If previously inactive prior to pregnancy, a shorter duration of exercise is advised. Slowly building up the duration and do not exceed 30 minutes as a general rule.
If you were highly active prior to pregnancy and accustomed to vigorous exercise, there is no evidence to suggest that continued participation in vigorous exercise during pregnancy is harmful.
Just make sure you adjust your routine based on changes in comfort and tolerance, specifically where pelvic/pubic pain and over-heating is concerned. Listen to your body.
Intensity: Avoid over-heating and observe general health and wellbeing indicators as to upper limit of intensity remembering that pregnancy is not the time to become an elite athlete.
Type: Provided that the guidelines are adhered to, stick with something you enjoy and also activities that prepare you for the years ahead.
General exercise/activity advice:
- The increase in ligament laxity associated with pregnancy may have implications for the risk of injury. For this reason, the pregnant woman should take care with weight-bearing exercises and activities involving frequent changes in direction (i.e. court sports).
- Seriously consider whether you need to continue or participate in any contact sports.
- Balance and coordination issues that come with a third trimester belly can make activity difficult so avoid rapid changes of direction and unstable/uneven surfaces.
- Remain conscious of your exertion level and hydration status.
- Be mindful of any changes you feel while exercising.
Antenatal classes begin 1 August 2018 and feature the Pilates Tower, props and years of experience to keep you mobile and strong during your pregnancy. These classes are built for women 20+ weeks pregnant. Prior to this point, you can join any class at the studio.
Join us at The Movement Refinery for classes designed by experts to support your pregnancy and beyond.