Looking after your body during pregnancy

by (Osteopath & Exercise Scientist)

During pregnancy your body goes through many different changes. Some of these changes can lead to a range of different aches and pains or other problems in the body. It is important to look after your body throughout your pregnancy and during the post natal period to prevent these aches and pains and avoid any ongoing problems into the future.

The weight of the baby puts extra strain on your pelvic floor, stomach muscles, pelvis and your back. Therefore, these areas require extra care during this period. This article provides some tips and advice on how to protect these areas and reduce the chance of getting problems associated with them. Pilates classes run by health professionals specially designed for pregnancy is a great place to start as these classes are designed to strengthen your muscles in a safe way and help prevent problems in these areas.

If you are getting any aches and pains or other problems during your pregnancy, most can be treated effectively, so be sure to make an appointment with an appropriate health professional. A Women´s Health Physiotherapist is specially trained to help with these matters.

Pelvic floor
The pelvic floor consists of a sling of muscles which goes from the pubic bone at the front to the tail bone at the back. Both pregnancy and childbirth put a significant strain on the pelvic floor. When these muscles become weak, you may find that you leak some urine when you cough, sneeze or strain. This is quite common and unfortunately may become worse as you get older. By doing pelvic floor exercises you can strengthen these muscles and prevent this from happening. It is also important to avoid any unnecessary strain on the pelvic floor.

Pelvic floor exercises
– Sit with your back straight
– Squeeze and lift your pelvic floor as though you are trying to stop the flow of urine
– Hold for up to 6 -10 seconds, then relax for up to 10 seconds
– Repeat up to 10 times, 3-4 times a day
– Make sure you do not hold your breath, continue to breathe normally

How do I know if I’m doing it correctly?
One way to check that you are able to contract you pelvic floor is while you are urinating, try to stop the flow of urine and then start again, this is using your pelvic floor muscles. This is to check for a contraction only and should not be used as a method of exercising.
Not everyone can contract their pelvic floor. If you are having difficulty or are unsure about whether or not you are doing it correctly visit your local Women’s Health Physiotherapist for further assistance. It is very important that you are not pushing down on your pelvic floor as this may make things worse.

Avoiding extra strain on your pelvic floor
– Squeeze your pelvic floor muscles when you sneeze, cough, lift or do something strenuous.
– When exercising avoid lifting heavy weights and avoid high impact exercises (eg. Jumping) – for further information on safe exercises during pregnancy and to protect your pelvic floor visit www.pelvicfloorfirst.org.au
– Constipation and straining on the toilet puts unnecessary stress on your pelvic floor so be sure to stay hydrated by drinking sufficient fluids and have plenty of fibre in your diet.

For further information and advice on the pelvic floor, incontinence and pregnancy the Continence Foundation Australia website is a great resource and can be accessed at: http://www.continence.org.au/pages/pregnancy.html

Stomach muscles
During pregnancy your stomach muscles have to stretch and often separate to give room for your growing baby. After delivering your baby these muscles will not necessarily return to their pre – pregnancy condition on their own. This can be problematic as your stomach muscles are important in supporting your back and if they are stretched and separated you are more likely to get back pain or injure your back.

Things that may help reduce the separation:
– When getting out of bed, roll onto your side first and then sit up
– Avoiding activities which cause a bulge between your stomach muscles. This might include things such as heavy lifting or doing crunches or sit ups.
-Wearing a support such as Tubigrip or a pregnancy belt, a Women´s Health professional can advise you on sizing and correct use of these items
It is important to start a specifically designed exercise program as soon as possible after delivery for the best chance of recovery – consult a Women’s Health Physiotherapist, who will design a program specifically for you.

Pelvic pain and instability
It is not uncommon during pregnancy to get pain around your pelvis. This may be felt in your buttocks, lower back, or at the pubis at the front of your pelvis. This is usually due to instability of the pelvic joints which occurs during pregnancy as the body prepares for the delivery of your baby.
If you are experiencing pain in these areas it is advisable to make an appointment with a Women’s Health Physiotherapist as symptoms tend to worsen throughout pregnancy if not treated.

To reduce pelvic pain:
– Avoid single leg exercises, where you are putting weight predominately through one leg, or activities such as climbing stairs.
– When rolling in bed or getting out of your car keep your legs squeezed together and move both legs at the same time. Avoid moving one leg then the other.
– A pelvic belt may reduce pain and avoid symptoms worsening

Back pain
As your baby grows and becomes heavier your tummy may be pulled forward making your back curve further inwards than normal. This puts extra strain on the joints and muscles of the back and can produce pain.

Tips to reduce the chance of back pain
– Always sit and stand with good posture, try to elongate your spine from your head to your tail bone and avoid slouching.
– The following exercise may help to reduce pain:
o Start on your hands and knees with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Keep your tummy drawn in and your back flat. Don´t let your tummy hang down and your back curve in.
o Lift your spine up into the air further drawing your tummy up and in towards your spine. You´re aiming to curve your spine upwards making an arch with your body.
o Then return to the starting position, at no point allowing the tummy to hang down or the back to curve in the other direction.
o Continue to breathe throughout the exercise; do not hold your breath.
o Repeat 5 to 10 times, twice a day.

If you still experience pain seek further professional advice as back pain during pregnancy can often be easily treated.

The information contained in this article is in the nature of general comment only, and neither purports, nor is intended, to be advice on a particular matter. No reader should act on the basis of anything contained in this article without seeking independent professional medical advice. No responsibility or liability whatsoever can be accepted by Stay Tuned Sport Medicine or the authors for any loss, damage or injury that may arise from any person acting on any statement or information contained in this article and all such liabilities are expressly disclaimed.

Image from www.salon.com

by (Osteopath & Exercise Scientist) on 25th August 2014 |

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