Why You Should Modify Exercise When You’re Pregnant or Postpartum

Updated: Apr 26, 2020

Here are 3 reasons why you should modify exercise during this chapter:

1. Pelvic Floor Considerations

Your pelvic floor muscles are the support system for internal organs, such as your bladder, uterus, vagina, and rectum. During pregnancy, these muscles get put under incredible strain as the baby grows and takes up space in your belly. They now have the job of supporting the organs listed above as well as a baby! Without proper attention, these muscles might not get properly strengthened or relaxed as needed to be able to perform optimally. There is a lot of attention drawn to performing kegels, but that’s not all that needs to be done. You also need to be able to relax your pelvic floors muscles as needed. The ability to relax those muscles can greatly reduce your risk of tearing during a vaginal delivery. It can also help with incontinence, as leakage can often be due to overly tight pelvic floor muscles that need to relax.

All this to say that your pelvic floor muscles play a very important role in your health as a woman, but they are often either overlooked or misunderstood. Scheduling an appointment with a pelvic floor physical therapist is an important first step in taking charge of your pelvic health, as they can assess any previous damage, dysfunctions or considerations that are specific to you. Using this information, a pregnancy and postpartum coach can help guide your fitness journey through this chapter. 

2. Abdominal Wall

Your abdominal wall undergoes a tremendous amount of stretching during pregnancy in order to accommodate the growing baby. Diastasis Recti has become a hot topic in the pregnant community, but there is a lot of misinformation out there. You’ll see articles promising that if you just “perform these 6 exercises, you’ll prevent Diastasis Recti”. The truth is, every pregnant woman will have a diastasis – it’s just a natural part of pregnancy. The diastasis becomes a dysfunction when it does not heal properly after delivery. While you can’t prevent diastasis, there are steps you can take to strengthen your abs without putting undo pressure on an already strained abdominal wall. Things like limiting overhead movements and exercises that require breath holding, which can force pressure straight out into your linea alba. 

When you’re pregnant, you can still perform abdominal exercises in short segments on your back and/or modify leaning on your elbows or supported by pillows. Deep core muscles, obliques, and the transverse abdominals should be the focus during pregnancy. Having strong core muscles will help you have good posture and lessen back pain. They can also assist during a vaginal delivery when you have to push. Postpartum, ab work should be focused on reconnecting to those abdominal muscles and slowly building strength, giving your body time to heal and recover. 

3. Total Body Changes

The human body is truly amazing and the ways that it changes to accommodate pregnancy and delivery are incredible. Joints relax, breasts enlarge, milk is produced, feet flatten, the belly grows…the list could go on and on for how your body changes during pregnancy and postpartum. Unwelcome side effects can also come along with these changes, including pain, swelling, and discomfort. If you are having any specific complications, a specially trained pregnancy and postpartum coach knows how to modify appropriately, so that you can still strengthen your muscles without exacerbating your pain. 

In light of the need for modifications, particularly for your core, I have a few modifications here for common ab exercises. You’ll see sit-ups, bicycles, and star reaches (or similar exercises) in a lot of workout routines, so it’s important to have some good modifications, so that you can still participate and get some good ab work in. 

Here are 3 modifications for common core exercises:

1. Leg Lifts for Sit-ups

a. Begin on your back or leaning on your elbows or pillows

b. Keep your right foot flat on the ground and straighten your left leg out ahead of you 

c. Exhale and slowly lift your left leg straight up as far as you can

d. Lower your leg back to the starting position in a controlled manner

e. Repeat 12-15 times on each side

2. Side Leans with Yoga Block for Bicycles

a. Begin in a kneeling position with the yoga block on your left side, stretching your right leg straight out to the side

b. Place your right hand on your leg and slowly lean as far down your leg as you can

c. Exhale and bring yourself back to the starting position, resting your left hand on the yoga block

d. Repeat 10-12 times on each side

3. Yoga Block Pull-ins for Star Reaches

a. Begin on your back or leaning on your elbows or pillows

b. Bring your knees up to your chest and place the yoga block between your knees

c. Lower your feet down to touch your toes to the ground, keeping your lower back on the ground 

d. Exhale and use your transverse abdominals to help pull your legs back up to the starting position

e. Repeat 12-15 times

Modification that are specific to you are so important for your pregnancy and postpartum fitness journey. These ab modifications are a great place to start!

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