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Should I plank during pregnancy? goPhysio Advice

Posted on 21st September 2016 by

There was a great question today over on twitter that I saw,

Should I keep doing planks now I’m pregnant?

Exercise during pregnancy is great. There are so many benefits, which we covered in a previous blog. But what’s important is that you do the right exercise for you and the stage of pregnancy you are at.

Planks probably aren’t the best type of exercise for you to do whilst pregnant. There are so many alternative exercises that are more suitable and appropriate that would still work the areas that a plank does. Many of these are Pilates based, working on deep abdominal and pelvic muscles but in a much gentler way. The trouble with a plank is that it’s a fairly intense exercise and puts a lot of strain through your abdominals.

This work your abdominals really hard (the point of the exercise!) but your abdominals are already undergoing so many physical changes that planking may put too much exertion through them. The problem with doing inappropriate exercises is that you put yourself at greater risk of developing issues such as Diastasis Recti or pelvic girdle pain.

The general rule of thumb with exercise in pregnancy is if you’re already taking part regularly in an exercise pre-pregnancy, then it’s usually safe to continue this during pregnancy. So, if planks are a regular part of your exercise routine and you already have excellent strength and control in these areas, then modifying this exercise as part of your routine is likely to be OK. Just bear in mind the bigger your bump gets, the more strain those muscle are under. Most importantly, listen to your body. Don’t do anything you don’t feel comfortable with and if in any doubt, seek advice from a suitably qualified professional.

The safest option is to exercise under the guidance of a specially trained professional so you can be rest assured that you are giving your changing body the best workout.


The Effects of Pregnancy on the Body

Posted on 19th July 2016 by

We all know the obvious changes that your body goes through during pregnancy, but there are some less know changes that occur, sometimes without you even realising!

Almost all the systems in the body will undergo changes to help prepare you for the arrival of your new baby:

Soft Tissue Changes

  • The hormone Relaxin starts to be produced 2 weeks after conception and peaks at 12 weeks. It continues to be produced throughout pregnancy and the effects can last up to 3-6 months after delivery.
  • Relaxed muscles and ligaments are at an increased risk of injury, with an increased possibility of sprains and strains.
  • Conditions such as Symphysis Pubic Dysfunction (SPD) and Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP) are also more common due to the increased elasticity of the joints, muscles and ligaments.
  • Muscles undergo adaptive length changes, to accommodate your increasing bump – with Rectus Abdominis (your tummy muscles) increasing by up to 50cm in length.
  • Due to the increased length, muscles can develop a ‘stretch weakness’ – putting you at a higher risk of injury.

Postural Changes

  • Pregnancy postural changesAs your baby grows, it causes your centre of gravity to shift forwards. To compensate and keep you balanced, your spinal posture will change.
  • As the image here shows, your thoracic spine will become more kyphotic or rounded. This leads to an increased lordosis or curve in your lumbar spine. This causes increased tension in your paraspinal muscles and reduced activity & strength of the gluteal muscles.

Circulatory System

  • Blood volume will increase to prepare for any loss during delivery and your heart rate will increase by 20 beats per minute (BPM) in the first trimester and by up to 50 BPM in the third trimester.
  • Blood vessels will increase in diameter to accommodate the additional blood volume, leading to low blood pressure. Lying flat on your back and changing position too quickly may also cause dizziness and feeling light headed.

Fluid Retention

  • In early pregnancy, this will show as increased weight, but will come increasingly more noticeable throughout the pregnancy. Hands, feet, ankles and lower legs tend to be most affected by fluid retention.
  • Fluid retention in the hands and arms can cause compression of the median nerve, leading to carpal tunnel symptoms.
  • Swollen feet and ankles may restrict your mobility – calf raises, ankle mobility and support/compression stockings can help.

Digestive System

  • Relaxin, a hormone to relax your ligaments for labour, causes a reduction in smooth muscle activity. This can lead to issues such as reflux, indigestion and heartburn. It can also slow your digestive tract down, leading to constipation.
  • Eating little and often may help, as well as staying hydrated and eating a high fibre diet.

physical changes to body

How Can Exercise Help?

First Trimester

This trimester is important for development of your baby, so gentle exercise focusing on activating your pelvic floor and core abdominal muscles is key. If you start off with good habits and postures, it will help the whole way through your pregnancy. Often, women can suffer quite badly with morning sickness, tiredness and a lack of energy at this stage of their pregnancy. Gentle exercise may help to improve mood, aid with sleep and keep your joints & muscles flexible.

Second Trimester

When you reach your second trimester, things will ease up – morning sickness will reduce and you will have more energy. Your body will now start to show physical signs of changing, with a bump becoming visible and you may find that your breasts are increasing in size – which may lead to tension and strain in the upper back. It is vital to keep exercising at this stage, continuing to strengthen your core and pelvic floor as your bump grows. Exercise will also help to reduce fluid retention, keep muscles stretched and make the most of your new found energy!

Third Trimester

Final stretch now! You may find that you feel tired and breathless now, with most women carrying an extra 12kg of weight. Continuing gentle exercise will help keep you moving and prepare you for delivery and the arrival of your new baby. Ensuring the core and pelvic floor muscles remain strengthened will help support your uterus and will also aid in your post natal recovery.

Pilates is a great way to stay active during your pregnancy. It is safe, low impact and helps to strengthen all the key core and pelvic floor muscles, along with strengthening your arms & legs to help prepare your body for carrying, lifting and holding your new arrival – plus the car seat, pushchair, nappy bag…!

Here at goPhysio, we run a range of Clinical Pilates classes. One of our Pilates Instructors and Physio’s is Kim, who has undertaken specialist ante & post natal training to help make sure you exercise safely and effectively during and after your pregnancy. She is able to tailor the exercises within the classes appropriately.

If you’d like more information about our Pilates classes, take a look at our website, or call our team on 023 8035 2217.


Pelvic Girdle Pain in Pregnancy

Posted on 23rd July 2015 by

Yesterday on BBC Radio 4’s Inside Health programme, there was a great overview of Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP).

PGP is an umbrella term used to describe pain felt in the hip, back & pelvic area during pregnancy. It can affect 1 in 5 pregnancies, normally from the second trimester, but can start from very early on in pregnancy.

It used to be thought that it was caused by changes in the ligaments during pregnancy but latest research has found that this only plays a small part. It is thought now that the biomechanical changes that occur during pregnancy in your back and pelvis are the more likely cause.

PGP can be very mild or it can be seriously debilitating, interrupting sleep, causing problems walking, sitting and gong up and down stairs. It can have a major impact on your life and pregnancy. The early it is diagnosed and the earlier treatment is sought, the better.

Physiotherapy is key to helping Mums to be with PGP. A Physio will carry out a thorough assessment of your back and pelvis to find out exactly what is going on and where the problem is coming from. This will guide an appropriate treatment and management programme with the aim of easing the pain, stopping it worsening and helping you to cope and stay active. There are many treatments that a Physio can use. These include manual therapy, specific exercises and lots of advice.

The sooner you seek expert advice if you think you may be suffering with PGP the better.

Once you’ve had your baby, the good news is that PGP often resolves quite quickly.

If you’d like further information about PGP, The Pelvic Partnership is a great online resource.

To listen to the Radio 4 show in full, click on this link, the section on PGP starts at about 17 minutes in.

If you are suffering with PGP, book an appointment to see our specialist Physiotherapist, Kim, by calling us on 023 8025 3317.