Tips For Mom During Pregnancy
Most women consider pregnancy to be a time filled with excitement and anticipation. Few new mothers realize the many physical changes that will take place. To accommodate your growing pregnancy, your weight will increase, your ligaments will relax, and the activity of your cardiopulmonary, renal and gastrointestinal systems will increase. These changes can affect your posture, energy and emotions. Pain can also be a side effect, including lower back pain, sciatica, leg cramps, carpal tunnel syndrome and other musculoskeletal issues.
Although changes to your body are inevitable during pregnancy, many of the associated problems can be eased or avoided entirely. Modifications of body mechanics and posture can alleviate unnecessary stress on your body. Regular exercise can help/prevent discomfort, boost energy, reduce stress and improve overall health. Physical therapists can provide education on posture modification, advise you on exercise regimens, and use “hands-on” techniques to decrease your pain.
Posture / Body Mechanics
The following posture modifications can be utilized to avoid unnecessary stress on your body:
- Sitting: Push yourself all the way back in your chair, which will help to straighten your upper back and neck. Use a pillow or roll to support your lower back.
- Standing: During pregnancy, the curve in your lower back can increase, putting extra stress on your body. If you are standing in one place for an extended period of time, you can minimize this stress by putting one foot up on a stool or step in front of you.
- Bending / Lifting: Bending from your back should be avoided. A safer way is to use your legs with only a slight but normal bend of the back. When lifting, be sure to keep the load as close to you as possible. Avoid bending and twisting at the same time.
- Sleeping: Lay on your side with a pillow between your knees to ensure proper spinal alignment. As your belly grows, you may also choose to put a small pillow under it to support the baby.
According to the American Pregnancy Association, “if you have been following a regular exercise program prior to your pregnancy, you should be able to maintain that program to some degree throughout your entire pregnancy.” Exercise has many benefits, both physical and psychological. It can help to avoid excessive weight gain, decrease swelling, relieve stress, boost energy, and even reduce pain. Regular exercise also helps prepare your body for the birthing process by increasing stamina and strength. It can even help shorten labor and speed up your recovery.
Tips for Exercise:
- If you are just starting an exercise program, consult with your OB/GYN beforehand.
- Start slow and aim for 30-minutes of exercise 3-4x per week.
- Monitor your heart rate and make sure it stays below 140 bpm.
- Take frequent breaks & drink plenty of fluids.
- Never exercise to the point of exhaustion or breathlessness.
- Avoid exercising in extremely hot conditions.
- Suggested exercise – walking, swimming, cycling, weight training (avoid excessive weight).
- Avoid contact sports or more dangerous sports such as water or snow skiing.
- Include stretching and relaxation techniques as a normal part of yourprogram.
- Listen to your body – your body will naturally give you signals that it is timeto reduce the level of your exercise.
- Stop exercising and contact your doctor if you notice any abnormal symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, chest pain, abdominal pain, bleeding, contractions, etc.
- Eat a balanced diet.
Ways to Stay Motivated:
- Start small – don’t overwhelm yourself with exercise and you’ll be more likely to stick with it.
- Find a partner or involve the whole family
- Entertain yourself with music or a book
- Be creative with your exercise – dance, do yoga, vary your choice each day.
Although you should expect your body to go through many changes during pregnancy, do not consider pain to be a “normal part of pregnancy.” In fact, joint and muscle pain that develops during pregnancy can often be the sign of an underlying musculoskeletal condition.
If you are noticing lower back / upper back pain or any other musculoskeletal issues, physical therapy can help. During a thorough evaluation, your Physical Therapist will assess your range of motion, strength, flexibility and function. They will then develop a specific plan of care to address your pain and to meet your individualized needs / goals. You will be educated on correct posture, exercise progression, and body mechanics to relieve your discomfort and to maintain your pain relief throughout your pregnancy.
Many women also experience discomfort in the months following birth. Both back and neck pain are common issues when caring for infants due to the new tasks, such as breastfeeding, that you must perform. Your Physical Therapist will give you strengthening and postural exercises, along with advice on how to alter these activities to minimize the effects on your body.
As Physical Therapists, it is our main goal to provide early intervention to patients dealing with pregnancy–related pain. Early diagnosis and treatment can prevent the development of chronic conditions, as well as allow you to return to your normal activities of life without pain or limitation.