Pregnancy & Exercise

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Pre-Natal Exercise
Regular exercise during pregnancy has a range of benefits, however, many women are hesitant to engage in physical activity due to perceptions that it may harm the baby. Exercise participation has not been shown to be not harmful except when contraindicated. It is important to discuss any potential contraindications or precautions to exercise with your doctor and obstetrician before commencing regular physical activity while pregnant.

WHY EXERCISE IS IMPORTANT?
The female body will go through a lot of changes during this special time which can affect balance and movement, as well as contribute to back and pelvic pain. Ligaments become lax due to changes in hormones and weight distribution is altered which provides a challenge to the lower back and pelvic joints and muscles. Physical activity and strengthening targeted at the pelvic floor, gluteal and trunk muscles can help reduce discomfort and optimise movement.

BENEFITS OF EXERCISE
Reduce severity or prevent occurrence of back and pelvic pain
Helps moderate mood and sleep
Decrease post-partum recovery time
Maintain or improve physical fitness (important in preparing for labour)
In combination with pelvic floor training can prevent or manage incontinence

EXERCISE IDEAS
Swimming or water aerobics
Walking
Jogging or running
Pilates or yoga
Stationary cycling
Strength training

GUIDELINES & RECOMMENDATIONS
The Australian guidelines that women during pregnancy should participate in 150-300 minutes of low-moderate physical activity.
Exercise that involves contact and/or has a high risk of falling should be avoided (e.g. skiing/snowboarding, scuba diving, skateboarding, basketball, soccer, horse riding)
Classes such as ‘Hot Yoga’ or ‘Hot Pilates’ or swimming in an overheated pool should be avoided due to risk of overheating
Avoid exercise performed lying on back after first trimester
Maintaining adequate hydration and nutrition to support energy expenditure
Monitor for signs to cease exercise: vaginal bleeding, headache, dizziness, chest pain, difficulty breathing before exertion, muscle pain.

Post-Natal Exercise
It is normally safe to recommence or start exercise 4-6 weeks after delivery, however it is a good idea to check with your doctor or obstetrician at a post-natal check-up. Participating in regular exercise is important for maintaining a healthy lifestyle and optimising function and fitness to look after baby.

BENEFITS
Support energy levels and mental health and wellbeing
Help manage weight and stress levels
Contributes to treatment of post-natal depression
Reduce back and pelvic pain

GUIDELINES & RECOMMENDATIONS
Exercising after breast feeding to minimise discomfort
Maintaining adequate hydration and nutrition to support energy expenditure
Commencing pelvic floor muscle training early in post-partum period to reduce or prevent post-natal associated incontinence.

References:
Department of Health (2019) Clinical Practice Guidelines: Pregnancy Care. Canberra: Australian Government Department of Health.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (2015) Physical activity and exercise during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Committee Opinion No. 650. Obstet Gynecol 126: pp135–142.
Mortensen, Kate and Kam, Renee (2012) Exercise and breastfeeding. Breastfeeding Review, Vol. 20, No. 3, pp. 39-42.

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