Well hello.....Remember me?! I hang my head in shame that it has been two months since the last blog, but I do have an excuse! There has been a slight development in our lives with the addition of our little baby girl, she decided to suprise us and arrive 12 days early. There was none of this 'first baby always are overdue', don't believe it ladies. She announced her arrival in true movie style via my waters breaking when out to dinner at a busy restaurant with my entire family (details will be in a follow up blog of my experience of labour and hypnobirthing!), and she has been keeping us very busy and wrapped around her little finger ever since.
Only one week earlier at 37 weeks pregnant I had put together a few videos for you of some of the key exercises I incorporated into my pregnancy workout, which helped me to remain active and pelvic pain free in pregnancy, and enjoy an active labour. As highlighted in previous blogs, exercise in pregnancy is encouraged in national guidelines and current research but for the ladies questioning it in early pregnancy, the information and support available to them can still be inconclusive, 'wooly' and thin on the ground. This is where your Women's Health Physio comes into play, a voila! So I have been my own guinea pig and taken one for the team in my own pregnancy, (although there is no secret I am an exercise addict) with good results and no glitches I will be pleased to add!
The videos include; exercises for key pelvic and core muscle groups that need maintaining and strengthening, including; 1) gluts, which are essential in order to cope with the centre of gravity and pelvic tilt adjustments that occur with a growing bump, and 2) the deep abdominal muscles that have to accomodate and support a growing bump, whilst they lengthen and have altered mechanical alignment with the changing contour of the abdomen. They also highlight day to day things to be aware of such as the way you stand, sit to stand and move around with a growing bump, showing you that you can be exercising your core muscles at any time not just in your gym gear.
The aim of the videos are to highlight what level of physical activity is possible to maintain if you lead a healthy and active pregnancy, with a well structured programme and good form. In them I talk about the importance of developing your own body awareness (proprioception), and that the need to understand a good technique with each exercise is paramount. This is above overloading with weight which can lead to poor form, not to mention too much strain through a core and pelvis which is already under strain and under a high intrabdominal pressure system. Your body is going through daily changes and therefore being aware of your form and posture is key in order to avoid injury. Therefore, if you are not familiar with these exercises and haven't been active or doing similar exercises, don't reach for the kettlebell and 'give it a go'. Completing a tailored and structured programme is paramount, A) to avoid injury, B) to save your energy at this time of high demand, and so make it as efficient a programme as possible to achieve the maximum gains.
As mentioned in my previous blog 'Folic Squats', there is a need to targert prenatal exercise uptake and fitness awareness, so that ladies like myself can enter pregnancy fit and able to sustain a programme such as this. This routine is not something I had picked up the week before, but a modified programme I had been doing throughout the year prior to my pregnancy, therefore my body was robust enough to tolerate and thrive.
If you would like to know more of what's possible for you in your pregnancy, I would highly recommend having a one to one with a women's health physiotherapist, or personal trainer who specialises in antenatal exercise. This is not a time to stop, it's a time to listen and become in tune with your body, and care for it. By that I mean don't expect it to have to cope with extra weight gain whilst becoming sedentary, unfit and inactive without repercussions. i.e pain, weakness, and reduced physical tolerance. Don't get me wrong, IT IS important to have those days / evenings on the sofa when you just feel drained from growing your baby and cannot face doing anything at all (I had plenty of those!), but equally keeping with a scheduled regular exercise routine will boost your energy and tolerance in pregnancy....and ultimately help you perform in the grand finally of childbirth and keep you going in those early sleepless baby days! Not to mention reducing your risk of complications in pregnancy such as gestational diabetes and heart related conditions.....a win win really!
Have a look, like and share of my youtube channel 'The Powder Room Physio' where you can view me sporting a nearly ready to pop bump whilst giving demonstrations, advice and education on my pregnancy exercise programme............enjoy! Apologies if you catch an eyeful of my bump making an escape out of my tshirt, it fitted me the week before! And apologies if the sound quality is lacking at times.
Squatting is a very natural position for us to move into, we do varying degrees of it when we sit down, get in and out of a car, on and off the toilet and reach for something on the floor. Over time, we as a race have gotten progressively worse at it as we have developed furniture to assist us with squatting for tasks such as toileting, or preparing food which we would have traditionally done in a deep squat position. It is so important for maintaining range of motion of the back, hips, knees and ankles, it is also excellent at maintaining the length and strength of the buttocks (gluts) and the pelvic floor. It is also excellent to help prepare the body for the childbirth and ensure complete and relaxed pooing!
If you are not used to squatting, it is important to be aware of the ideal posture as it could feel unnatural. The heels should remain heavy on the floor with your body weight over them. Your pelvis should be in an untucked position with the tip of your tailbone pointing up behind you, not tucked under you like a dog with its tail between your legs. Therefore the whole of your spine is extended, and your chest and eyes lifted. You can also start by sitting back on to a higher stool, then a normal height chair, then a foot stool. Good form is paramount so maybe use a mirror or partner to be able to feedback to you.
Deadlifting can be an excellent exercise for working the muscles in your posterior chain (in normal language...the muscles running down the back of you!), in particular your hamstrings (back of thighs), gluts (buttocks) and deep back stabilisers. These muscles are so important for helping you counteract your growing bump shifting your centre of gravity forward and the increasing feeling that you are going to tip over forwards!
If you have never deadlifted before, seek advice from a professional who knows how, such as a women's health physio. Key things you are looking for include;
If all else fails, you cannot go wrong with the step up. This is such a functional exercise, we step up when going up curbs, the stairs, and even in and out of the bath. Applying the principles i describe here of activating your buttocks, thighs and deep abdominals when stepping up and extending can really help to support your pelvis and growing bump.
Pelvic girdle pain can often be felt when stepping up the stairs, practising step ups in a controlled way with focus on muscle activation can help stabilise and support a weak hypermobile pelvis experiencing pelvic girdle pain. If you are suffering with PGP, as pointed out in the video, make sure to make every step count when going on the stairs or even walking along; focus on pushing down through the heel which can aid squeeze of the buttocks and give you more strength, thus reducing the feeling of your leg going to give way.
Last but not least. This is a more complex exercise challenging many body systems including your proprioception, whilst working your glut muscles intensely! It is therefore important to only do this if you are comfortable with understanding the task at hand and can be aware of good form. I would recommend seeking advice from a women's health physio or personal trainer confident in antenatal exercise prescription.
Make sure to explore my youtube channel 'The Powder Room Physio' containing other videos with advice on pregnancy posture, exercise, pilates and pelvic floor function.
Next time I will be sharing with you some of the pilates moves we focus on in the antenatal Bump to Baby and Beyond Pilates class. As mentioned in previous blogs, pilates can be an excellent form of exercise for all in pregnancy to maintain and develop an engaged and supportive core muscular system, so stayed tuned for those!
As mentioned previously, I will also be sharing my own personal experiences of labour and hypnobirthing, ekkkk!!! My role as a women's health physio can involve listening to and supporting ladies with their experiences so I feel it is only fair to share mine. Including all the undesirable bits no one talks about but everyone wants to know...