Can Exercise Harm My Baby? How to Stay Fit, Fabulous and Pregnant
Injuries during pregnancy are generally low there are some things to be cautious about. The body undergoes a lot of stress during this time, changes in the body such as ligament laxity, lower back pain, and falls can occur.
What happens to the body during pregnancy?
Hormone secretion of Relaxin and Estrogen increases during pregnancy, these hormones help to relax ligaments and tendons in preparation for that final push. These hormones not only relax the pelvic region in preparation for childbirth but also have an effect on the surrounding ligaments of the pelvis and spine.
Posture changes and our centre of gravity alters in response to the little bub growing, the extra size and weight development in the abdomen, increasing the curve in the lower back and placing greater pressure on the lumbar spine.
The expecting mother’s breasts enlarge and drag the shoulders forward and down. These changes in posture and centre of gravity will also affect balance and coordination.
Common injuries during pregnancy
During a healthy pregnancy, women generally gain between 12-18kgs, mostly in the abdominal region. This added weight changes the centre of gravity, and not only affect posture but also increases the risk of falls during pregnancy The increased pressure coupled with laxity in the ligaments results in a greater risk of lower back strain. Pain is most common where the pelvis meets the spine, at the sacroiliac joint where pressure builds over the 9-month period.
Enlarged breasts increase stress and strain through the upper back, the shoulders roll forward and down, generating pain in the mid-back region. When the shoulders round it also cause the head to jut forward, placing extra stress on the neck increasing the likelihood of pain.
Falls risk increases throughout pregnancy. For this reason, extra attention needs to be paid to tasks where balance may be an issue such as climbing stairs, carrying packages, walking on a slippery or uneven surface. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if feeling unsteady.
Pregnancy not only places physical stress on the body but emotional stress through increased hormone levels, this emotional stress builds up and can also be a contributing factor to back pain, especially during stressful periods of pregnancy.
How to avoid injury
The first step in avoiding injuries is to be aware of them. Acknowledging the changes occurring in the body and making compensations will prevent the majority of injuries from occurring.
Simple stretching of the hamstrings and gluteals (muscles that we sit on) can reduce/prevent pain, leg cramps and muscle fatigue. Pain and spasms in the round ligaments (connective tissue connecting the pubic bones) can be aggravated by certain exercises, like shifting weight from one leg to another. Pelvic tilts on all fours and bridging exercises help reduce this irritation.
Special care should be taken when ascending stairs, or walking on uneven surfaces and a helping hand is recommended if any concerns arise.
As with all cases, if any injury or pain occurs please consult a qualified health care practitioner.