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Exercise During and Post Pregnancy

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We all know what pregnancy is, but do we all know what exercise will make your pregnancy and childbirth a much smoother process?

One set of exercises that all women – pregnant or not! – should learn to do is pelvic floor exercises.

The pelvic floor is the sling of muscles that forms the base to your pelvis. Exercising these muscles during pregnancy, and afterwards, will help tone them up, as well as make you more aware of them so you can relax them during the birth. Exercising the pelvic floor after the birth may also help ease perineal pain.

It has been found that a strong, taught pelvic floor is helpful when, during childbirth, the baby needs to engage and then go through a 90 – degree turn before popping out! A sling-like, loose pelvic floor seems to give the baby less to grab hold of when performing this movement and can cause complications in delivery.

Strong pelvic floor muscles also help prevent more serious problems such as stress incontinence and prolapse of the uterus, which sometimes happens in older women.

Pelvic floor exercises are for life..!

How does it affect me?

Pregnancy changes your body in many ways. Some of these changes can affect the way you exercise.

Throughout pregnancy, your body is experiencing a hormonal roller – coaster ride. Hormones like relaxin cause many of your ligaments and joints to soften and loosen in preparation for labour. Joint injuries and ligament damage might therefore, result from exercise that involves jerking actions and sudden movement.  Examples are: tennis, squash and jogging. The risk of back injuries associated with weight training or rowing is also increased.

During the later months, your belly gets bigger and your balance may not be so good. Therefore falls become more likely when you do any exercise that requires balance.

Other experts also think that the following activities should be avoided during the pregnancy. It is because of the high risk of falls or direct damage to you or your baby : –

• Mountaineering, rock climbing
• High diving, scuba diving
• Downhill skiing, water skiing, water slides
• Step classes, gymnastics (avoid high impact exercises!)
• Anaerobic exercise such as sprinting
• Contact sport, competitive team sports

The use saunas, steam baths and hot tubs may also cause over – heating. There is some evidence that over – heating during pregnancy may cause damage to the baby’s developing nervous system. (‘Overheating’ does not mean simply getting a bit hot and bothered in the summer; or enjoying a warm bath in the winter.  It means getting so hot that your core temperature rises and even the amniotic fluid in which your baby floats start heating up. This is only likely to happen if you exercise for long periods in the hot sun without rest breaks and extra fluids. Also, if your body cannot lose heat by sweating effectively, as in a sauna or hot tub)

Exercise after Pregnancy

Exercise might be the last thing on your mind after you give birth, but it’s worthwhile. In fact, exercise after pregnancy might be one of the best things you can do for yourself.

Regular exercise after pregnancy can: –

  • Promote weight loss, particularly when combined with reduced calorie intake
  • Improve your cardiovascular fitness
  • Restore muscle strength and tone
  • Condition your abdominal muscles
  • Boost your energy level
  • Improve your mood
  • Relieve stress
  • Help prevent and promote recovery from postpartum depression

Remember, exercise after pregnancy might not be easy — but it can do wonders for your well-being, as well as give you the energy you need to care for your newborn.

When to start exercising after birth

The NHS recommends that it may be a good idea to wait until after your six-week postnatal check before you start to high impact exercise again. If you exercised regularly before giving birth and you feel fit and well, you might be able to start earlier. Talk to your midwife, health visitor or GP about it.

Exercise overall has great benefits to mums and mums – to – be. Tell your trainer what physical activity you are used to, and what you would like to do during and after pregnancy. Together you can assess the benefits and risks, and decide on a safe level of exercise.

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