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.
- As 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
How Can Exercise Help?
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.
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!
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.