Pregnancy is a time of great change within a woman’s body, and can lead to many feelings of uncertainty, particularly as the baby grows and changes in the woman’s body become more apparent.
Pregnancy hormones cause a ‘softening’ of the ligaments, potentially leading to reduced joint support. This, along with the extra pressure on the pelvic floor muscles and abdominal muscles as the baby grows, may result in reduced support of the lower back and pelvis. It is recommended to avoid high impact, jolting exercises.
Commonly the central vertical abdominal muscles stretch and separate at their midline. This is known as a rectus abdominis diastasis. While it is important to maintain abdominal muscle strength during pregnancy, correct exercise technique is essential, as performing conventional sit-up exercises or double leg lifting exercises may actually worsen this separation.
Many women are unable to tolerate exercising, or even lying on their back, as the pregnancy progresses, as this may cause a reduction in blood flow to the heart and head, leading to feelings of faintness and light-headedness. See our fact sheet on Pilates and Pregnancy for further information on exercise during pregnancy.
During pregnancy, extra strain on the pelvic floor muscles may mean they don’t work quite as well as they should, possibly resulting in impairments in bladder and bowel function such as incontinence and reduced support of the pelvic organs, which may manifest as a pelvic organ prolapse.
We recommend a pregnancy assessment by a Physiotherapist with a post-graduate qualification in Women’s Health and Continence to assess the function of the pelvic floor muscles and abdominal muscles, and to advise on appropriate exercises to be continued during pregnancy.
Selected LifeCare centres offer Physiotherapy Pilates and Antenatal Hydrotherapy classes, which are run by Physiotherapists who have extensive training in exercise programming for pregnant women.