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Pregnancy and Exercise

Thursday, January 02, 2020

Here at Physio Inq Sutherland & Engadine Physio we get a lot of questions around how much exercise should pregnant women do, and how to know when you shouldn’t exercise during pregnancy.

Engadine Physio pregnancy and exercise

Updated Pregnancy and Exercise Guidelines were published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in 2019. There is strong, high quality evidence that pregnant women should incorporate a variety of aerobic and resistance training activities to achieve great benefits. Adding yoga and/or gentle stretching may also be beneficial.

The evidence is clear that exercise during pregnancy results in fewer newborn complications like:

  • large for gestational age 
  • gestational hypertension
  • gestational diabetes
  • decreased total gestational weight gain

There are also maternal health benefits with reduced risk of:

  • pre-eclampsia
  • caesarean section
  • instrumental delivery
  • urinary incontinence
  • excessive gestational weight gain
  • depression
  • lumbo-pelvic pain

The evidence proves that physical activity during pregnancy is not associated with:

  • miscarriage
  • stillbirth
  • neonatal death
  • preterm birth
  • preterm/prelabour rupture of membranes
  • neonatal hypoglycaemia
  • low birth weight
  • birth defects
  • induction of labour or birth complications

Other strong recommendations coming from these guidelines are:

  • All women without contraindications should be physically active throughout pregnancy. Contraindications include ruptured members, premature labour; unexplained persistent bleeding; placenta previa after 28 weeks’ gestation; pre-eclampsia; incompetent cervix; intrauterine growth restriction; triplet or more multiple pregnancy; uncontrolled type 1 diabetes, hypertension or thyroid disease; other serious cardiovascular, respiratory or systemic disorder. If you have one of these red flags, exercise during pregnancy is not recommended. If you have other related concerns (e.g. a history of pregnancy loss, preterm birth, eating disorders, or other significant medical conditions) then you should always speak to a health professional like a physiotherapist first.
  • Pregnant women should accumulate at least 150 min of moderate-intensity physical activity each week to achieve clinically meaningful health benefits and reductions in pregnancy complications. Moderate-intensity exercise means 125-146 beats per minute for expectant mothers under 29 year olds, and 121-141 beats per minute for over 30 year old expectant mothers. If you wish to do vigorous-intensity physical activity, i.e. at a higher heart rate, then you should always speak to a health professional like a physiotherapist first.
  • Physical activity should be accumulated over a minimum of 3 days per week; however, being active every day is encouraged.

Some evidence was found for these recommendations:

  • Pelvic floor muscle training (PFMT) (eg, Kegel exercises) may be performed on a daily basis to reduce the risk of urinary incontinence. Instruction on the proper technique is recommended to obtain optimal benefits.
  • Pregnant women who experience light-headedness, nausea or feel unwell when they exercise flat on their back should modify their exercise position to avoid the supine position.

At Engadine Physio, our physiotherapists can help with a variety of pregnancy concerns, and can help to keep or even start you being active during this important time of your life. Contact us today!

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