Three changes to the musculoskeletal system during pregnancy and after birth: How exercise can help
- When pregnant the stiff and usually immobile pelvic joints are prepared for the passage of the baby at birth. These joints are held in place due their shape, muscular activity and by strong, fibrous ligaments. Changes in hormones cause a loss in stiffness in the ligaments meaning that the pelvis can flare during birth allowing the passage of the baby’s head. The ligaments regain their stiffness slowly post birth but this loss of stiffness can cause problems such as low back pain both during pregnancy and post birth.
- During pregnancy and particularly during birth the pelvic floor muscles: those that form the muscular sling underneath the pelvis and control the activity in the urinary and anal sphincters as well as the vaginal wall and vulva; become stretched and sometimes torn. This can lead to problems with pelvic stability, strength, urinary and anal continence as well as sexual function.
- The rectus abdominus, the 6-pack muscle, will also become stretched during pregnancy. This can cause the central connective tissue band that runs right down the middle of the abdomen to separate. This is called diastasis recti, which may persist post birth causing a loss of abdominal strength.
The good news is not every woman will have problems associated with the above changes. But for those that do exercise can help:
- If planning a child and you aren’t an active person, make exercise part of your every week in preparation. If you are overweight and planning a child, strongly consider a weight loss programme.
- Once pregnant, remain active for as long as possible during pregnancy. Exercise is not contraindicated when pregnant. Clearly contact sport should be ceased but other forms of exercise including running and lifting weights are generally fine if you are otherwise medically healthy.
- When pregnant, perform pelvic floor muscle exercises weekly. These can be done in many ways but to get a good feeling of which muscles to use without getting too complicated, practise shutting off the stream of urine when peeing and then re-starting. A contraction of the pelvic floor muscles should feel like a lift of your undercarriage. Perform these in sets like you would a weight training drill at the gym for example 15 repetitions x 4 sets holding each repetition for 5 seconds.
- When pregnant, also perform squats and modified sit ups (for example using a gym ball) weekly. If you are not used to such exercises start with a small amount and build up. Again work in the manner indicated in 3. above.
- After birth, having given yourself at least a short period to recover (this will vary depending on various factors), re-start the above exercises.
To get into shape when pregnant or after birth with someone who has both experiential expertise as well as an evidence based practice contact Super Fit today. Exercise is an elixir, check out this article for more details: https://www.superfituk.co.uk/blog/power-of-exercise/ Your body will change again for the better with exercise: https://www.superfituk.co.uk/blog/mechanoreceptive/ For additional assistance when pregnant and after birth in a range of areas, check out Super Fit’s friends at Tower Hamlets Mums