During pregnancy your body changes in response to all the hormonal surges which can disrupt the gut, back and pelvic region. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends; an accumulation of 150 minutes of moderate Physical Activity each week. Physical Activity is encouraged everyday but should occur over a minimum of 3 days per week. A variety of physical activities should be incorporated, both aerobic and resistance in nature, along with yoga and gentle stretching. Your exercise throughout your pregnancy should be individualized and tailored to you based on your previous experience with exercise, current situation and what is realistic for you throughout your pregnancy.
Progesterone hormones increase during your pregnancy which increases constipation. The benefit of exercise allows your digestive system to work effectively to reduce constipation and reduce pressure on your pelvic floor muscles, this reduces the likelihood of developing urine incontinence, flatulence, and hemorrhoids. When pregnant your body is more susceptible to developing gestational diabetes, exercise regulates your cortisol levels as well as maintains healthy insulin production to reduce the likelihood of developing gestational diabetes. The serotonin hormone is an important mood elevator and is typically produced in your gut, when your baby is moving and taking up space in your abdomen, this affects the function of your digestive system. Exercise maintains optimal regulation and production of serotonin to maintain a good mood. Exercise also releases endorphins which acts as a natural pain relief and mood elevator reducing the likelihood of developing pre-natal and post-natal depression, which takes a significant toll on the mother and the quality of life. The hormone Relaxin is released to the ligaments in the lower back and pelvic region to start to prepare for the birth itself, this adds to some increased inflammation due to the reduced support around these areas causing pelvic related pubic, SIJ, buttock and even sciatic pain.
Exercise helps to maintain strong and stable muscles with increased endurance for stability therefore, reducing the likelihood of developing a flare up or development of these symptoms throughout your pregnancy. Exercise along with adequate hydration helps to reduce swelling throughout your body, this helps to reduce the incidence of developing high blood pressure and the other symptoms which can induce pre-eclampsia, which is a serious condition that requires emergency care for you and your baby. As your pregnancy progresses your anxiety can increase, pain at night can increase due to limitations to positions that your body can get into. Exercise helps to reduce the discomfort at night to allow you to sleep better and reduce anxiety by inducing the activity of the Parasympathetic nervous system – ‘rest and digest’ over the Sympathetic nervous system which is responsible for ‘fight and flight’.
Exercise maintains a healthy, efficient, and strong pelvic floor to support your pelvic organs, reducing incontinence, hemorrhoids and prolapse during and after pregnancy and developing tears during your labor. It also increases your awareness of your pelvic region which improves the mind body connection, making the delivery of your baby easier. The other great benefit of exercise helps your baby to get into the head down position ready for labor. We at Restorative Physical Therapy have pelvic floor specialized physical therapists that can help you with your pregnancy journey before and after you have had your baby! Contact us to inquire and make an appointment to see one of our team members.
1. Mottola MF, Davenport MH, Ruchat S-M, et al. 2019 Canadian guideline for physical activity throughout pregnancy. BRITISH JOURNAL OF SPORTS MEDICINE. 52(21):1339-1346. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2018-100056. 2. Kuhrt, K., Hezelgrave, N. L., & Shennan, A. H. (2015). Exercise in pregnancy. Obstetrician & Gynaecologist, 17(4), 281–287. https://doi.org/10.1111/tog.12228 3. ACOG Committee Opinion No. 650: Physical Activity and Exercise During Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period. (2015). Obstetrics & Gynecology, 126(6), e135–e142. https://doi.org/10.1097/ AOG.0000000000001214 4. ACSM guidelines: https://www.acsm.org/docs/default-source/files-for-resource-library/pregnancy-physical-activity.pdf?sfvrsn=12a73853_4. Accessed: 3/22/2022