Being Active While Pregnant! - Breakaway Physical Therapy
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Being Active While Pregnant!


Can I workout while I am pregnant?

So many women suffer with back pain, hip pain, neck pain, pelvic floor aches, leakage of urine and more while they are pregnant.

There are so many changes that happen to our bodies when we become pregnant and grow a baby in our belly. Things shift, stretch and move to make room for our baby. The body is incredible in the ways that it can change, but this can also cause a lot of stress and strain on the system.

There is an old school of thought that when we get pregnant, we should stop moving and only rest. This is not what we want for our bodies for nine months OR for our growing baby.

It is important to be active and healthy when you are pregnant. Exercising is essential to keep you moving and will also help reduce any aches or pains nagging you.

What are the benefits to exercising when pregnant?

  • Helps you sleep better (this is so important to sleep while you can before you have a newborn)
  • Improve your mood (this is great when you have surging hormones in your body, especially in the first and third trimester)
  • Helps to battle constipation - Constipations is really common during pregnancy because of the hormonal changes and in the third trimester with your baby pushing your GI tract and up and out of the way
  • Reduces any back pain that is very common during pregnancy
  • Promotes muscle strength and endurance, which is needed during your birthing time
  • You will have more energy (this is amazing when you have so many things to get done to be ready for your baby to arrive)
  • It reduces the risk of swelling in your hands and feet (exercise will promote increased blood flow to your muscles)
  • It will encourage you to return to exercise after having your baby

If you are unsure of how to put an exercise program together, then consult your pelvic floor physical therapist so that they can guide you on the proper exercises for YOUR body while pregnant.

There are some things to keep in mind when exercising while pregnant to make sure that you and your baby are safe.

  • Do not start any new workouts when you become pregnant
  • Rule of thumb is if you were doing that workout before getting pregnant, then you can continue (within reason and modifications may be needed
  • Workout at 70% of your max capacity to make sure that you do not overdo it
  • Stop any contact sports, anything where you could get hit by a ball, risk of falling, heavy weightlifting, riding a bike outside when your belly changes your balance and more
  • Avoid anything with heavy, jarring movements (such as burpees and lots of jumping)
  • If you are unsure if the exercise is appropriate and safe for your body, please contact your pelvic floor physical therapist to discuss before participating
  • Drink lots of water before, during and after your workout
  • You should be drinking at least ½ your body weight in ounces of water everyday
  • Give yourself grace- you are growing a human being and exercise will be harder than when you were not pregnant
  • Even climbing the stairs can make you out of breath and that is to be expected
  • If you start having Braxton Hicks contractions, you should stop the exercise or slow down until they pass
  • Also drink more water and you can lay on your left side to promote optimal blood flow to help them resolve

There are so many exercises that you can try and complete throughout your entire pregnancy. Swimming is one of my favorites because you feel unweighted in the water. It helps to reduce your aches and pains when you are in the water. You can swim laps, walk, jog in the water or do water aerobics.

Walking is one of the best exercises and you can challenge yourself with a quicker pace, walking hills and even talking with a friend while you walk to get your heartrate going. You can safely walk your entire pregnancy and it is great to keep moving, even during your birthing time.

Strengthening exercises such as squats, lunges, arm exercises for your biceps and triceps will all help you during your birthing time and afterwards. You can use light weights and complete higher repetitions to make your muscles work. You will get stronger, while keeping your body and your baby safe.

How are the abdominals while pregnant?

It is absolutely important to still use and work your abdominals while pregnant. The 1st and 2nd trimester we focus more on abdominal strengthening and do less in the 3rd trimester as your baby has grown quite large pushing your abdominal muscles apart.

Have you heard of diastasis rectus?

This is a condition where the abdominals separate at the linea alba, a band of connective tissue down the center of your body, that happens for all women in their third trimester of pregnancy. This happens so that we can make room for our growing baby and you may not even notice that it happens.

Why is it important?

It is important to understand what is going on with your body and to be able to use your abdominal muscles properly. We want to avoid any exercises in the 3rd trimester that will put more strain on the abdominals that have separated – such as burpees, traditional planks, prolonged time in a downward dog position, crunches, V-ups and more.

Now that you understand what to avoid, we can focus on using your abdominal muscles with other movements, such as squats, lunges, standing up from sitting to make sure that are able to help support your back.

Its also important to know how to find your deepest abdominal muscles, the transversus abdominals, which are on the inside of your hip bones. These muscles help to bring our abdominals back together and work properly after having your baby.

There are so many ways that a pelvic floor physical therapist can guide you on how to help find those deep abdominal muscles, how to integrate them into movements, what to avoid exercise wise and what to focus on.

How about the pelvic floor?

So many women ask us if they should keep doing their kegels when they are pregnant, and the answer is YES!

It is important to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles so that they can support the bottom of your pelvis, prevent urinary leakage, work during your birthing time and more.

BUT it is equally important that your pelvic floor muscles can relax after tightening them with exercise.

We want to have a balance in our pelvic floor muscles, just like all muscle groups in the body, being able to tighten and relax.

If you are doing kegels and they are causing pain, STOP and call your pelvic floor physical therapist to talk more about what is going on.

If you are having leakage of urine, start doing some kegels where you tighten your pelvic floor muscles as if you are holding your bladder to prevent any leakage of urine.

Another analogy is to pretend like you are tightening your pelvic floor muscles to lift up a blueberry. Gently contract your muscles, but make sure that you don’t squeeze too hard or you will squash the blueberry. Moderate contraction, hold for 5 seconds and then relax for 5 seconds.

See if you can repeat this 10 times without any pain or leakage. If this is to challenging, dial back the hold time to 2 seconds and if this is too easy, then try holding for 10 seconds.

Another great way to work your muscles together while pregnant and beyond is to contract your pelvic floor muscles before you go down into a squat and then hold for 5 seconds. Complete 10 squats where you complete a kegel before going down into the squat, hold for 5 seconds and relax your pelvic floor muscles once you are in standing.

Our body does wonders when we can use lots of muscle groups together and do that throughout our days without even realizing it.

Find the best exercise program for you while you are pregnant and again if you need help, check in with our pelvic floor physical therapists so that they can put a program together for you.

Try looking for exercise classes with other pregnant women so that you can understand what is going on with each other while exercising AND meet some new Mom friends!

And if you are suffering from back pain, hip pain, pelvic floor pain, urinary leakage and more…stop waiting for it to disappear when you can get help now. Pregnancy is already hard on your body, do not make it worse by suffering in silence.

When we have aches and pains, our body is trying to give us information and it is up to us whether or not we listen to what is going on. We want to make sure that we go into our birthing time and post-partum recovery time as prepared as possible. Part of that is taking care of your body before you get pregnant and while pregnant, making sure that you are active and exercise to take care of you AND your growing baby.

Call us at 410-721-6333 to talk with one of our pelvic floor physical therapists to get your body ready for pregnancy, your birthing time and help you through your healing time post-partum. Healthy kids deserve healthy Moms.

Shaina Clemons

Shaina Clemons

Shaina is the founder and owner of Breakaway Physical Therapy.  She received her Doctorate of Physical Therapy from the University of Maryland Baltimore, along with a Bachelor's degree from Towson University.   Shaina is an Ironman triathlete, with a love of all sports. Exercise is her passion, which plays an important role in both her personal and professional life.  In her free time, Shaina enjoys spending time with her husband and three young children.  Shaina's love of snowboarding led her to her career choice many years ago. 
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