The Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy

We all know that exercise has many health benefits, but many women are unsure of how to approach exercise when they become pregnant. According to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), “Women with uncomplicated pregnancies should be encouraged to engage in aerobic and strength-conditioning exercises before, during, and after pregnancy.” In the absence of any medical or obstetric complication or contraindication, physical activity during pregnancy is safe and encouraged. Benefits of exercise during pregnancy include lower incidences of gestational diabetes mellitus and gestational hypertension (preeclampsia) as well as reduction of depressive disorders in the post-partum period.  There are also benefits for the fetus that include lower incidence of preterm birth, lower incidence of cesarean birth, and lower incidence of lower birth weight babies.

The U.S Department of Health and Human Services Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Examples of exercises that have been extensively studied to be safe and beneficial during pregnancy are walking, stationary cycling, aerobic exercises, dancing, resistance exercises, stretching exercises, and water aerobics. A pelvic health physical therapist can assist in establishing safe exercise parameters throughout the stages of pregnancy and post-partum.

Many pregnant women can develop orthopedic conditions during pregnancy secondary to weight gain, reduced balance, and ligamentous laxity.  More than 60% of pregnant women experience low back pain during their pregnancy.  An evaluation with a pelvic health physical therapist can assist in the treatment of mid and low back pain as well as pelvic pains associated with pregnancy.

At Excel, we are able to spend 1-hour sessions one-on-one with our patients which allows us to focus on each patient’s individual needs and ensure safe completion of the exercise.  Pelvic health physical therapists have specialized training in pregnancy and post-partum related conditions, so we can also provide education on laboring positions, pelvic recovery following vaginal or cesarean birth, and appropriate peripartum and post-partum exercises.  It is also encouraged that a woman returns to physical therapy 6 weeks post-delivery to reduce diastasis recti (separation of abdominal muscles) as well as to work on the pelvic floor, core, and back muscle strength and posture. If you are pregnant or post-partum and would like to learn more about appropriate exercise, contact your OBGYN and ask for a referral for a pelvic health physical therapist.

“While pregnant with twins, I saw Michelle for pelvic and hip pain.  Having 2 toddlers at home while pregnant with twins definitely had its challenges, and Michelle was able to modify my sessions based on my needs which were ever-changing. The insights she provided benefitted me in becoming more mindful with my movements and allowed me to remain active with my daughters during my last trimester.  This was my third delivery and probably the best one because I was able to apply the techniques I learned!  6 weeks post-partum, I returned to PT and have continued to improve my strength and reduce my pain so that I now feel healthy and strong again!” –Jessica Chan

Michelle Fritz, PT, DPT, Blue Bell Clinic

References:

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (2015). ACOG committee opinion no. 650: Physical activity and exercise during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Obstetrics & Gynecology, 126(6), e135-42. Doi: 10.1097/AOG.0000000000001214

U.S Department of Health and Human Services (2018). Physical activity guidelines for americans 2nd ed. https://health.gov/paguidelines

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