Here at City Osteopathy we see many women seeking osteopathic treatment during pregnancy and in the post-natal period. As well as offering manual osteopathic treatment we seek to provide advice and guidance on supporting physical health during this time of great changes. One question that often comes up for women we treat is – am I still able to exercise whilst I’m pregnant?
The guidelines are clear that, for the healthy woman, exercise is safe and beneficial. It offers numerous health benefits for both mother and unborn child, and there is minimal risk associated with physical activity.
So, what are the benefits of exercise?
The benefits of exercise stated by Sports Medicine Australia in their 2016 guidelines are:
- Improved cardiovascular function and physical fitness
- Decreased risk of pregnancy related complications such as pregnancy-induced hypertension and pre-eclampsia.
- Reduced back and pelvic pain
- Reduced fatigue, stress, anxiety and depression
- Decrease in excessive gestational weight gain and post-partum weight retention.
- Fewer delivery complications in women who are active during pregnancy
- Prevention and management of urinary incontinence.
How should I exercise?
When giving advice to all people at all stages of life about their lifestyle, symptoms, and physical activity, there are always individual considerations to take account of. This is no different for women during pregnancy, and when there are medical or obstetric complications general exercise may not be recommended. It is always a good idea to discuss this with your healthcare professional and/or antenatal care provider.
For a healthy woman during an uncomplicated pregnancy, regular moderate intensity exercise is recommended, including both aerobic and light to moderate muscle strengthening components. This ‘muscle strengthening’ component includes pelvic floor exercises, which in themselves are an important part of maintaining long term health after pregnancy.
This is a time to continue or moderately improve activity levels, gradually progressing activity if pre-pregnancy exercise levels have been low and to select appropriate forms of activity. Walking, swimming, and modified Pilates are all safe options, though it is not recommended to continue activities with a high risk of falling, or trauma, and supine positions (laying on your back) past the beginning of pregnancy.
Remember that every activity counts and exercise should be spread throughout the week. Hydration, calorific intake, and maintaining a safe body temperature are all important to consider. You should listen to your body and adapt your activity, modifying your exercise routine as is appropriate for you.
What is ‘moderate intensity exercise’?
As complicated as it sounds, ‘moderate intensity exercise’ is that which makes you breathe faster, whilst still being able to hold a conversation. Some people use the guidance that you should exercise so that you can ‘talk but not sing’ indicating that your breathing rate should increase a little, but within safe limits.
Pregnancy is a great time to adopt (or continue!) a healthy lifestyle, knowing that you are doing the best for your own physical, mental and emotional health as well as for that of your coming child. Pain and dysfunction can influence your ability to move and undertake activity, and it is very common for women during pregnancy to experience new onsets of back pain, headaches, pelvic pain, and other associated symptoms. Our osteopaths can give you advice and safe osteopathic treatment to support your comfort and health during pregnancy.
Sports Medicine Australia
Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
APPI pilates – modified pilates for ante- and post-natal period