Following on from our 4 Tips for Postural Health During Pregnancy article here are our Top 5 Antenatal Exercises which will help to optimise your ante and post-natal health and fitness.
1. Pelvic Floor Exercises
As previously stated the pelvic floor muscles (PFM’s) are extremely important during pregnancy and have to work extra hard to support the pelvic organs and maintain continence. Exercises should be carried out at least 3 times per day. In terms of number of repetitions I would advise approximately 10 maximal reps aiming to hold for 10 seconds, 10 sub-maximal (approximately 30-50% of effort) holding for 10 seconds and 10 quick contractions. If you’re struggling to remember, then apps like Squeezy which is an NHS Physio app can help you keep on track.
2. Pelvic tilts
LBP (lower back pain) is a common complaint during pregnancy and pelvic tilts can go some way to help alleviate the symptoms. Our spines should be in the shape of an ‘S’ whereby the forces are evenly distributed particularly throughout the lumbar spine (the lowest part) where the vertebrae and intervertebral discs are larger. Postural adaptations due to the growing baby cause a greater load to go through the lumbar spine which leaves the lower back more susceptible to injury and general aches and pains. Imagine the pelvis is like a bucket of water which you are tipping forwards and backward with the aim of finding the midpoint, otherwise known as the neutral pelvis. This is the most stable position for the lumbar spine and pelvis.
3. Thoracic rotations
The growing uterus has a mechanical effect on the joints between the ribs and the spine, as well as causing the ribs to flare which can cause pain in the thoracic (mid spine) area. Furthermore reduction in activity can also contribute to pain and discomfort in the thoracic spine. Although it can be difficult to target this area whilst pregnant there are a few pilates exercises that can help to mobilise the mid spine.
4. Transverse abdominis (TA)/core stability exercises
Elongated and weaker abdominal muscles can contribute to reduced muscle stability and contribute to low back pain. Although it is more difficult to activate the TA it is important to do so during pregnancy. It is easier to perform in four point kneeling, imagining that you are drawing your belly button back towards your spine
The effects of pregnancy upon your posture can cause certain muscles to lengthen and/or tighten which can alter your overall balance. The hip flexors, hamstrings and bottom muscles are particularly susceptible to tightening which can incidentally be the cause of many antenatal aches and pains. Remember to hold each stretch for approximately 30-45 seconds daily.
There are many more exercises that are important during pregnancy but the main thing is that if you are considered a low risk pregnancy, you should aim to do 30 minutes or more of moderate intensity exercise, most days of the week.