When you first find out you are pregnant there is a multitude of emotions that run through you, excitement, fear, elation, nervousness, happiness and worry to name a few. My next thought was about how important it was to stay healthy during pregnancy and what exercise would be the safest for my growing baby as well as for my pelvic floor.
What we know is that exercise, in general, has many benefits and that is still the case during pregnancy. It assists with weight control, blood flow, reducing the chance of pre-and postnatal depression as well as keeping yourself fit for labour. The research suggests that pregnancy is not the time to begin a new kind of exercise regime but to continue what you have already been doing with some modifications if necessary (Nascimento SL, 2012). Pregnant women should do a combination of aerobic exercise and strength training to assist with cardiovascular fitness, overall body strength, good posture and core strength (Nascimento SL, 2012). If you were someone who was not particularly active prior to getting pregnant it is important to start with some low impact exercise that can be continued throughout your pregnancy, such as walking, swimming or pilates.
The netball bib can wait a little longer
The current guidelines are that you can play non-contact racquet sports (e.g. tennis, hockey, netball, running) until 16 weeks’ gestation if you are not suffering from any pelvic floor symptoms such as incontinence or pelvic girdle pain (Bø, 2018). If these symptoms start to occur you should seek assistance from a Pelvic Health Physiotherapist to discuss modification of your exercise routine.
Pelvic floor exercises work
There is also good evidence that doing pelvic floor exercises during pregnancy is protective against incontinence and prolapse postnatally (Woodley, 2017). We also know that most people who do their pelvic floor without being taught by a pelvic health specialist do not do them correctly, so it is worth having a check-up with a Pelvic Health Physiotherapist during your pregnancy to learn how to contract your pelvic floor correctly.
By keeping active and healthy during your pregnancy you are giving yourself and your baby the best start for the exciting and challenging road ahead.
If you are pregnant or had a baby and want more information on what exercise you can do while pregnant, when you can return to sport post labour, speak to our Pelvic Health Physios. They are happy to help.
Caitlin graduated from Curtin University in 2009. Since graduating as a Physiotherapist, Caitlin has completed a Masters in Continence and Women’s and Men’s (Pelvic) Health enabling her to manage a range of conditions in this specialty area. This complements the extensive study Caitlin has completed in Pilates, which she uses in the treatment of many of the conditions.
Leigh graduated from Curtin University in 2009. After having her first child and experiencing the challenges of the childbearing years, Leigh returned to Curtin University to complete postgraduate studies in Continence and Pelvic Health. She is passionate about this area and hopes to empower anyone suffering from pelvic issues.
BØ, K., ARTAL, R., BARAKAT, R., BROWN, W. J., DAVIES, G. A. L., DOOLEY, M., EVENSON, K. R., HAAKSTAD, L. A. H., KAYSER, B., KINNUNEN, T. I., LARSEN, K., MOTTOLA, M. F., NYGAARD, I., VAN POPPEL, M., STUGE, B. & KHAN, K. M. 2018. Exercise and pregnancy in recreational and elite athletes: 2016/2017 evidence summary from the IOC expert group meeting, Lausanne. Part 5. Recommendations for health professionals and active women. Br J Sports Med, 52, 1080-1085.
NASCIMENTO, S. L., SURITA, F. G. & CECATTI, J. G. 2012. Physical exercise during pregnancy: a systematic review. Curr Opin Obstet Gynecol, 24, 387-94.
WOODLEY, S. J., BOYLE, R., CODY, J. D., MØRKVED, S. & HAY-SMITH, E. J. C. 2017. Pelvic floor muscle training for prevention and treatment of urinary and faecal incontinence in antenatal and postnatal women. Cochrane Database Syst Rev, 12, Cd007471.