Tezia Gonzales, PT, DPT, board-certified orthopedic physical therapist, is the Director of Ability Rehabilitation of Winter Garden. She says, “Pregnancy is a very exciting time. You have constant thoughts about the future and how much your life is going to change for the better. You probably have so many ideas about how to care for your baby, both before and after birth. But what about you?”
Tezia and the team at Ability Rehabilitation offer a series of recommendations that can prepare your body for pregnancy and leave you feeling confident about the childbirth process. We’ll go over what you need to know about pelvic health and the different exercises that can make you stronger and healthier for the birth of your baby.
A successful pregnancy and delivery depend on the health of your pelvic floor, which is the area above the tops of your thighs and below your belly button. Under the skin is a complex network of muscles, ligaments, and a circulatory system that ensures the connective tissues can not only carry a pregnancy for nine months but are capable of delivering a healthy baby.
Strengthening your pelvic area can greatly improve your chances of a successful pregnancy and delivery. Going through pregnancy strains these muscle groups and conditioning your body beforehand can help you cope with the added stress. Exercising your pelvic floor throughout your pregnancy ensures these muscles function well before and after delivery. In general, women don’t think about pelvic health until after their pregnancy when they experience bowel and bladder issues.
For many women, pregnancy can weaken the pelvic floor muscles, making it harder to control their bladders. Fortunately, Tezia says, “Exercise can be helpful to the mother for many reasons.” That includes strengthening the pelvic floor.
Tezia says, “Your body is a temple to that baby for nine months. You have to take care of it. This of course includes eating well, taking the proper vitamins, but also exercising and stretching.”
For many of her patients, these exercises can help with:
- Improve energy levels
- Improve circulation
- Improve sleeping patterns
- Increase relaxation and enhance mood
- Increase strength and endurance
- Pregnancy complications like gestational diabetes and hypertension
- Prevent muscle and leg cramps
- Prevent muscle tightness and back or muscle pain
- Reduce bloating
- Reduce swelling and digestion issues
Tezia says, “Recent research even shows that babies of Moms who exercise have a stronger and healthier heart.”
She reminds us that exercising the pelvic floor during pregnancy is different from a traditional gym workout, “you want to ensure proper technique to avoid any injury. Don’t overdo it. Avoid too much heat and humidity. Slow and controlled movements due to your constantly changing center of gravity, which may alter your sense of balance.” It’s a good idea to consult with a physical therapist before beginning these exercises. Tezia says, “Certain positions should also be avoided or held for a short term during the second or third trimester.”
Exercise caution during these times by avoiding:
- Lying on your back for more than one or two minutes (this can reduce blood flow)
- Crunch positions (i.e. sit-ups)
- Deep twisting movements (focus on stabilization instead)
- Intense abdominal workouts (these exercises can weaken muscles as they stretch to accommodate the pregnancy)
- Prone positions or lying on the stomach
Now that you know what not to do, what regular pelvic exercises are beneficial during pregnancy?
The team at Ability Rehabilitation is here to help you before, during, and after your pregnancy. We work with our patients to develop custom therapies to strengthen areas of the body that come under stress during pregnancy. Our approach aids your smooth recovery after childbirth and gives you the tools to manage your pelvic health. Call us to find out more about our pelvic health and pregnancy support services.