Focus on Women & Exercise: What exercise to do during Pregnancy and Post Partum



Newsletter n°86 - 24 April 2018  

Hello Visitor,

At the Athens Olympics in 1896, there were no female competitors. Females debut at the Olympicswas in 1900 when they competed in lawn tennis and golf. Later in Stockholm, 1912, swimming was open to women for the first time. Australians’ love for the pool started right back then with Australia’s ‘Fanny’ Durack and ‘Mina’ Wylie taking gold and silver in the only race on offer, the 100m freestyle! This year saw for the first time in our Olympic history 50% of our Olympic team were female.

Celebrating this milestone and with the release of recent research, we through to focus our next few newsletters on issues relevant to women in sport. Firstly exercise during and after pregnancy, then research and recommendations of correct selection and use of sports bras and finally the relationship between active mums and active kids. Here is the first installment.

Exercise during Pregnancy and the Post Partum Period

Pregnant lady should do this exerciseProfessional recommendations in this space have provided mixed and therefore confusing recommendations. Historically advice during pregnancy has been to rest for fear of harming the unborn child. Now evidence is firmly in the court of undertaking appropriate levels of exercise with benefits the flow on benefits assisting with;

  • Pre-eclampsia
  • Pregnancy-induced hypertension
  • Incidence of delivery complications such as caesarean delivery
  • Back and pelvic pain
  • Fatigue
  • Stress, anxiety and depression

However, research shows that less than 30% of pregnant women are sufficiently active enough.

Generally, international guidelines concur that walking, jogging, cycling and swimming (at moderate intensity), muscle strengthening exercises (including pelvic floor exercises), water based exercise, and pregnancy-specific exercise classes are safe for pregnant women. Evidence also supports the view that returning to physical activity/exercise in the postpartum period has benefits in terms of the mothers’ physical and mental health and well being.

If a person is free of medical complications a ‘typical’ exercise program would include the following components;

Aerobic (e.g. walking, swimming, cycling, rowing machine)

Frequency: Daily

Intensity: perceived as somewhat hard, can talk but not sing. As a general rule of thumb, count each minute of vigorous intensity exercise as two minutes of moderate intensity exercise (i.e. 75 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise equates with 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise)

Time: Accumulate 150-300 minutes (30-60 minutes on most, if not all, days each week. Longer duration (closer to 300 minutes, instead of 150 minutes/ week) is associated with more benefits i.e. reduced risk of excess weight gain and gestational diabetes

Strength (body or external weights training)

Frequency: 2 sessions per week PregnantFitness

Intensity: Sub-maximal intensity using own body weight, light weights and/or resistance bands (exhale on effort)

Type: Work all large muscle groups. Aim for 1 set of 12-15 repetitions of up to 8-10 exercises

Pelvic Floor

Frequency: At least 8-12 contractions 3 times per day, three to four times per week

Intensity: Women should be encouraged to ‘contract maximally’

Special Mention: In regards to pelvic floor function it helps to know if you are completing the exercise correctly. Lots of ladies think they are, but on ultrasound examination, find out they are not. The physiotherapists at Esperance Physiotherapy, using external ultrasound technology, can show you how to correctly activate your pelvic floor and then set you an appropriate program. Learning and training your pelvic floor early in pregnancy is much simpler and more effective, that later or post partum when you have incontinence.

Precautions: Women who experience any of the following symptoms should seek advice from their ante-natal care provider before continuing with their physical activity/ exercise program.

• Abdominal pain

• Amniotic fluid leakage

• Calf pain or swelling

• Chest pain/tightness/palpitations

• Decreased fetal movement

• Dizziness or presyncope

• Dyspnoea, before exertion

• Excessive fatigue

• Excessive shortness of breath

• Muscle weakness

• Pelvic pain

• Preterm labor

• Severe headaches

So the research is firm! If you are wanting to have a baby, plan how and what exercise you are going to include, as it is a vital part for you and your baby's health. Trained health professionals like physiotherapist, can teach you correct pelvic floor function and help you design an appropriate physical program. One that is enjoyable and effective for you.


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