Both before and during pregnancy, training is essential. Before pregnancy, it ensures that your body is fit to carry a healthy baby to term. Once pregnant, it strengthens muscles to protect your joints and spine, which slacken before labour and ache when over-used. Specific exercises, when combined with breathing and relaxation techniques, help conserve energy in labour, while others prepare you for delivery positions.
Prenatal exercise benefits
Your body changes in many ways during pregnancy. There are the obvious physical changes, as well as the loosening up and stretching of the ligaments around the joints. But more important, on a day-to-day basis, is the difference in what your body can do with ease compared to what it could do before.
In later pregnancy, you become a rather awkward shape and lose some agility and mobility, becoming breathless more easily.Your centre of gravity is further forward and you are less stable. Once committed to a particular direction, you may find it hard to change, and if someone bumps into you, you may fall over. To compensate for this lack of stability, you might hold your shoulders back, stand with your feet apart, and walk with a waddling gait.
These compensatory actions mean that you are using muscles in a different way and may, therefore, suffer minor aches and pains as pregnancy progresses. If, however, you keep your body fit during pregnancy, and protect it from stresses and strains, the muscles, joints and ligaments will take the pressure more quickly, without aching. You may even avoid minor discomforts altogether. Get used to thinking that your body is in a unique, not an abnormal, state, and develop reflexes and postures that take account of its needs. If you do feel uncomfortable, ease your discomfort by practising some simple relaxation techniques (see Meditation during pregnancy).
CORRECT Correcting bad posture
Your centre of gravity changes as the baby grows; women often lean back to compensate. Good position corrects balance and lessens a backache.
Bending and lifting
The hormones of pregnancy soften the ligaments of the lower back and pelvis so heavy lifting should be avoided. It’s very important to protect your spine at this time and avoid unnecessary strain on your lower back when bending or lifting.
- Make use of your thigh muscles when lifting. Squat down first, keeping your back straight. Prepare your body (keep your feet slightly apart) by tensing your abdominal muscles, pulling up your pelvic floor muscles (see Things to know about pregnancy; The pelvic floor muscles), taking a deep breath and counting to three before lifting on four. As you lift, breathe out. Stand close to whatever you are lifting and keep it close to your body as you pick it up.
- When you are carrying anything, avoid swivelling to either side. Try to distribute your weight evenly as, for instance, with heavy shopping baskets.
- When you are carrying your toddler keep your body straight, don’t twist, and change him from side to side.
- If you have to do anything that involves being low down, squat (see Best squats during pregnancy) or get down on all fours. This is a comfortable position, particularly if you do suffer from a backache, as it takes the weight of the uterus off your spine.
- If you have bad posture or your back isn’t flexible, improve your suppleness by sitting cross-legged against a wall. Lengthen your spine, and tilt your pelvis, pressing your back into the wall. This helps to strengthen your spine and shows you how to hold yourself well.
- Avoid lifting anything heavy down from a height. Your back will arch and you could lose your balance if the object is heavier than you supposed.
PROTECTING YOUR SPINE
In later pregnancy, you need to adapt all your movements, prenatal exercise,
even primary usual ones like getting up from lying down, getting out of a chair, or lifting things. You want to put the least strain possible on your back and let your thighs do the work.
Move onto your side and use your arms to drive yourself up sideways,
Picking up a toddler
Remember to keep your back straight and to bend your knees.