Pregnancy and Exercise - You would train for a marathon - so why not train for childbirth?
Women in the past have been often blinded by the myth that exercising through pregnancy may cause harm to themselves or their unborn child. In more recent years, studies have proven this is in fact a myth, though there is still a percentage of women that will not participate in exercise - largely because they may be unsure where to start and what is considered safe.
Being healthy and active throughout your journey to motherhood is very important, however there are a few things to be aware of as your body will change dramatically over this time. Below we discuss some of the natural adaptions your body will make, then provide information on how to approach each trimester with your exercise program.
Thermoregulation - your body is now a human submarine, so what is happening to you is effecting your baby. Exercising during the hotter times of the day (10am-2pm) are not recommended. Your body now takes longer to adjust to the increase core temperature caused by exercises and this will only exaggerate the external temperatures - stay hydrated!
Laxity of Ligaments - Hormonal changes are inevitable during pregnancy, not only will your skin obtain a heavenly glow, you will also experience increased laxity (looseness) of your ligaments. This is caused by a hormone called relaxin, it helps the mother regulate her cardiovascular and renal systems, to keep up with the demand of extra O2 and other nutrients. It also plays a major role in the softening of the pelvic area to help with birthing.
Postural Changes - Now that you are going to be carrying a larger load around your abdominal region of your body, your centre of gravity will change and you will have to adapt. This usually means that your body will change to a more lordotic (curved) position in your lower spine. Many individuals may be incur some lower back pain due these changes, meaning it's essential to know these changes may occurs, thus the exercise program should aim to prevent and cater for this.
First Trimester (1-12 weeks):
The mother to be may start experiencing morning sickness or increased fatigue. Throughout this period it is encouraged the mother to be to continue completing normal exercises, with a slightly lowered intensity. This is due to increased body temperature and a heart rate too highly elevated may increase risk of miscarriage. In addition, during this early phase it would be recommended to start teaching the individual on pelvic floor activation through cueing and decrease amount of sit up type exercises and being rectus abdominus dominant.
Second Trimester (13-26 weeks):
The baby will generally start to show through this period and lying in supine (individual lying on their back) may start to become uncomfortable. In addition to discomfort, there are some dangers whilst laying in supine as the baby can sit on main blood vessels which would be observed through dizziness and shortness of breath to the mother. Therefore throughout the second trimester it will be recommended to omit any supine exercises - side lying exercise may still be performed. In addition, four point kneeling, sitting on ball, standing type exercise would still be encouraged.
Third Trimester (27 weeks onward):
This period is where the baby grows the most and the mothers posture will change significantly in a relatively short timeframe. In this period it is recommended to stop performing abdominal exercises, and it is not recommended to be lying on back or stomach. In this period mothers should be listening to their body and continue their prescribed exercise programs as long as they feel comfortable. Available literature does not have specific guidelines when to stop an exercise program, rather only continue if you feel comfortable to do so. Most women will stop at about the 36 week mark though many have exercised safety right up through to 40 weeks.