What’s the best way to help pregnant women stay active?

As I’m nearing the 6-month mark in my first pregnancy, I’ve struggled with finding the right balance between rest and exercise. I have an interest in physiotherapy and exercise, but I’m not a trained and licensed physiotherapist. I’m healthy and had an active lifestyle up until I became pregnant so I figured it would be easy to adapt my pre-pregnancy routine to suit my needs through each trimester. Easier said than done!

I’ll admit that I haven’t seen a physiotherapist to discuss this issue. I have a busy schedule and usually only make an appointment with my physio (yes, I have claimed him, he’s that good) when I’m in pain. Rightly or wrongly, I don’t think I’m alone in taking this approach.

What is a physiotherapist’s role in prescribing exercise for pregnant women?

After a quick search of the interwebs, I found guidelines for exercise during pregnancy that applied to the general population and to persons with a variety of underlying medical conditions. No where could I find specific recommendations for someone who is very active going into pregnancy, and I count myself in this group.

Cycling is my sport and so I looked online for advice on cycling while pregnant and found conflicting advice and anecdotal evidence both of which were informative but not quite the decisive answer I was looking for.

As the editor of Physispot, I wondered where the physiotherapist fits into this picture. Having looked online for answers my next step will be to consult my obstetrician. Not surprisingly, OBs and midwives are the go-to people for questions about pregnancy. But is there room for the physiotherapist? If so, how can the profession redefine its role in the public mind when it comes to exercise during pregnancy?

More collaboration is needed

It was really interesting to see a story from the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy that described an effort from the CSP to work with midwives to deliver effective advice on pelvic floor training. Weak pelvic floor muscles often lead to urinary incontinence during and after pregnancy and an exercise program is a good way to address treatment and prevention of the condition. I think this type of collaboration between the CSP and midwives is a great step in the right direction and I’d love to see something like this where I live.

Yet another story from CSP pointed to the role physiotherapists can play in helping a pregnant woman notice a baby’s movements and know when to call a midwife or OB. If I were seeing a physiotherapist for something unrelated to my pregnancy, I would be very grateful if he/she asked me about the baby’s movements and had advice on what’s normal and what’s cause for concern.

What I would really like to see is more discussion about exercise during pregnancy in the offices of midwives, OBs and GPs and a collaboration between these specialists and physiotherapists to help maintain current physical activity and treat and prevent common conditions that develop as a result of pregnancy. I’m sure some of you are already doing this and I applaud you!

If you’re interested in learning more, consider signing up for the FREE online course on Physical Activity that starts July 4, 2016 and covers pregnancy and exercise amongst other topics.

Just in case you’re wondering … here’s why it’s a good idea to exercise during pregnancy:

  • Improve or maintain physical fitness
  • Help with weight management
  • Reduce the risk of gestational diabetes in obese women
  • Enhance psychological well-being