For those of you who are reading this whilst pregnant, a HUGE CONGRATULATIONS from all of us at DM Osteopathy.
Whilst the prospect of a new best friend arriving in a few months time is exciting, we understand it can also be challenging and scary to know what is going to keep you and your baby safe and well during the month’s prior to birth.
In this blog we explore the benefits of exercise, osteopathic treatment and physiotherapy during pregnancy.
Is exercising safe for me and bump?
Here at DMO we are big believers in the powers of movement and the positive impact activity has on your wellbeing (see our previous blog post On Your Feet Britain). In particular, exercise during pregnancy can:
- help to reduce high blood pressure
- help you to adapt to your changing body shape and maintain a healthy weight during and after pregnancy;
- help to reduce the likelihood of varicose veins, swelling in ankles, feet and hands, and back pain;
- improve your fitness levels and sleep quality;
- improve mood and reduce depression and anxiety;
- lower the risk of pre-eclampsia, very low birth weight and caesarean birth; and
- improve your body’s ability to cope by shortening the length of labour and improving the likelihood of a straight-forward labour and easier recovery after the birth.
Studies have shown for most mum’s-to-be accumulating at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity over 3 or more days per week is associated with clinically meaningful reductions in the odds of developing gestational diabetes mellitus, pre-eclampsia and gestational hypertension (when compared with undertaking no physical activity). Accumulating more physical activity (frequency, duration or volume) over the week was associated with greater benefits; however, physical activity below these recommendations also incurred some benefits. So anything is better than nothing!
This recommendation does come with some exceptions:
Women with absolute contraindications (as per table 1) can safely continue their usual activities of daily living but should not participate in more strenuous activities.
Women with relative contraindications (as per table 1) should discuss the advantages and disadvantages of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity with their obstetric care provider before participating.
Some studies have shown that a blend of resistance training (weightlifting or using resistance bands) and aerobic exercise (anything that gets your heart rate up) is better than aerobic activity alone. Variety is indeed the spice of life!
The intensity “talk” test
Some of you may have a smart watch/fitness tracker which can help you monitor your heart rate during exercise and measure whether you are exercising within the “moderate intensity” space (see table 2 for guidelines on heart rate zones).
However, an easy and straight forward measure (which requires no wearable tech!) is the “talk” test; if you are able to maintain a conversation during physical activity then you are operating at a comfortable intensity. Slow it down if this isn’t possible.
If you are planning on exercising in the “virgoros” intensity category, consult with an obstetric care provider with knowledge of the impact of high-intensity physical activity on maternal and foetal outcomes.
General exercise safety precautions
We recommend applying the following simple, safe precautions during any exercise you undertake whilst pregnant:
- A warm-up and cool-down period should be included in your exercise. At DMO we advocate this for everyone, pregnant or not, but during pregnancy your ligaments become more relaxed (as a result of hormone level change) and so warm ups and cool downs really help to manage injury risk.
- Maintain adequate nutrition and stay hydrated with plenty of “high quality H2O”. Try to avoid vigorous physical activity in excessive heat and high humidity (e.g. hot yoga) so as to avoid dehydration.
- Avoid activities that involve physical contact or danger of falling. This might not be the best time in your life to start downhill skiing, scrummaging on a rugby field or going 12 rounds with someone in a boxing ring! Perhaps consider alternative aerobic activities such as brisk walking, cycling on a static bike, swimming or aquafit.
- If you were previously inactive prior to pregnancy then start activity gradually, at lower intensity and increase the duration and intensity as your pregnancy progresses.
- STOP ACTIVITY and seek medical attention if you experience any of the symptoms below:
- persistent excessive shortness of breath that does not resolve on rest;
- severe chest pain;
- regular and painful uterine contractions;
- vaginal bleeding;
- persistent loss of fluid from the vagina indicating rupture of the membranes; or
- persistent dizziness or faintness that does not resolve on rest.
- Yoga & pilates are really great exercises options (and there are often classes out there tailored for pregnant mums), but you should avoid the following during classes and in general during any types of exercise:
- prolonged periods lying on your back after 16 weeks;
- exercises that include holding your breath or taking short forceful breaths;
- stretches that put you under strain;
- lying upside down or on your abdomen; and
- excessive back bends or strong twists.
How can osteopathy and physiotherapy help during pregnancy? Is getting osteopathic treatment or physiotherapy safe whilst pregnant?
Osteopaths and physiotherapists can absolutely support you safely during your pregnancy. Our holistic approach and the one-on-one time we can spend with you can help to reduce pain, stress, anxiety and discomfort during and after your pregnancy.
If you are suffering with low back pain or pelvic girdle pain whilst pregnant you are most definitely not alone. Approximately half of pregnant women experience these. Whilst fairly common, such pain is not something that you have to accept and struggle through as part of the pregnancy process. If you develop pain you are also more likely to want to rest and lie down, contrary to the benefits of being physically active that we have already touched on. An osteopath or physio can help to treat pain and help make pregnancy be the exciting, positive and joyful experience that it should be!
Whilst your amazing body is busy growing a new life, it is also changing a lot itself. For example, the ligaments in your joints increase laxity (become more stretchy) to allow for expansion of your belly and in preparation for delivery. This laxity can make you more susceptible to injury.
Pain left untreated through pregnancy can persist after giving birth as it takes time for your muscles and ligaments to recover, not to mention you will also have a gorgeous new born to carry around!
To help you manage and treat pain an osteopath or physiotherapist can:
- Perform gentle mobilisations of your lower back and pelvis and release muscles in spasm. These can be achieved while lying on your side to protect your bump.
- Provide advice on posture and lifting techniques when lifting your baby to help reduce strain on your lower back. See our related blog post on posture here.
- Treat Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, which manifests itself as tingling, numbness and pain in the hand, which is common during pregnancy. Visit our existing Carpal Tunnel blog post for more information.
- Provide guidance on stretches and exercises to strengthen and lengthen key muscles, ligaments and joints and manage your pain.
Below are some great exercises you can use to stretch and strengthen your core and pelvic muscles and seven straight forward tips for relieving lower back pain and pelvic girdle pain.
If you want to discuss any of the above, find out more about any pain or discomfort you are feeling or how our osteopaths or physiotherapists may be able to help, please feel free to contact us or book an appointment on our website.
As ever, if you like the information we are providing in these blog posts then you can also follow us on Facebook at Dominic Malone Osteopathy and Instagram at @dm_osteopathy for additional titbits of advice and guidance.
- Exercising During Pregnancy – advice leaflet
- 7 Tips to Relieve Pregnancy Back Pain – advice leaflet
- Pregnancy Back Pain Exercises – exercises with clickable links to YouTube demonstration videos
- Pregnancy Back Stretches – exercises with clickable links to YouTube demonstration videos
- Pregnancy & Carpal Tunnel – advice leaflet