I was delighted to be asked to write a series of articles for West Essex Life focusing on women's health and fitness. This month, I focus on exercising when pregnant...
A woman’s body changes and evolves as we go through various stages in our lives. I’m excited to be taking you through some of those stages over the next few months with my Women’s Health and Fitness series. We’ll be starting this month with a focus on pregnancy.
As your body changes you may start to feel heavier and more tired. It is tempting to stop all physical activity. Whilst some adaptations need to be made when exercising while pregnant, it is important for your body and mind to keep moving.
If you exercised regularly before your pregnancy, you can carry on as long as you have no complications and have the all clear from your health care provider. If attending an exercise class, make sure the person taking the class is a qualified prenatal exercise instructor so they can correctly adapt the exercises for you. If exercising on your own, remember to pace yourself and modify accordingly. In general, you should be able to carry on a conversation whilst exercising. If you can't, you're probably pushing yourself too hard.
Intense exercise increases oxygen and blood flow to the muscles and away from your uterus. Avoid all contact sports, heavy weights and exercises where you lie flat on your back for more than a short while. Hormonal changes in pregnancy affect the ligaments supporting your joints, causing them to become looser and more prone to injury. Be careful not to push yourself. If you experience any unusual symptoms, stop and contact your health care provider for advice.
So what can you do?
One of the best forms of exercise in pregnancy is Pilates. It is one of the safest forms of exercise, though will need to be adapted by a specialist prenatal instructor as you will need to avoid some of the traditional Pilates exercises, especially those lying on your back. Pilates will make your pregnancy much more comfortable, your delivery easier and your postnatal recovery quicker.
As your baby gets bigger your posture will start to change and may cause lower back and hip pain. With its focus on the abdominal area and strengthening glutes and legs, Pilates will help support and stabilize you, as well as elongating the body, increasing your lung capacity and allowing more space for your baby to grow.
Pregnancy and delivery weaken and stretch your pelvic floor muscles, the muscles from your pubic bone to your tailbone which support the organs in your pelvis, bladder, uterus and bowel. You can help prevent weakening and incontinence issues by doing Pilates exercises. The exercises are designed to help strengthen the pelvic floor and I also add in extra pelvic floor focused exercises in my Prenatal Pilates classes to make sure my mums-to-be are as strong as possible and to help avoid future problems.
Whilst your body will feel much better, Pilates can also help relax your mind. The method of breathing used in Pilates encourages relaxation and calm, whilst also affecting blood flow in your brain and increasing circulation for you and your baby. Pilates breathing has also helped many of the new mums I teach during labour and delivery.
Women who do Prenatal Pilates have fantastic muscle tone, reduced back and hip pain and are far less likely to experience abdominal muscle separation and pelvic floor issues post-delivery. They have improved balance, strength and flexibility and are much more comfortable in their changing bodies.
Pregnancy is a precious time in a woman’s life. The hormonal and physical changes can be challenging, as well as amazing, and it’s important to take time to look after yourself both physically and mentally. Whatever type of exercise you choose to do in your pregnancy embrace your ever changing body, keep safe and keep moving.