As I embark maternity leave with my two-week year-old daughter I have had a chance to reflect on how my body is changing and the journey it’s been on. I hesitated to overshare during pregnancy mainly due to wanting my baby safe and in my mind keeping it private was the right thing for us.
During my 1st trimester I was amazed at the lack of information available to women that want to keep training and are feeling ok to do so. I spent the first 8 weeks being cautious to not over train before our scan. After that I continued with my usual training schedule as it worked for me and I felt up to it, but this is an area I’m trying to research more.
My pregnancy thankfully was pretty good up until 5 months, I was lucky enough to have the energy to exercise and didn’t really feel that sick other than on the morning commute to work. I managed to keep weight training and spin up as well as walk as much as possible. Once I got to 5 months I started experiencing strong pain in my pelvis which restricted by movement, as bad as not being able to walk up any hills and impacting sleep.
What is Pelvic Girdle Pain? The NHS describe it as a collection of unconformable symptoms caused by a stiffness of your pelvic joints or the joints moving unevenly at either the back or front of your pelvis. It can worsen when:
- Going up or down stairs
- Standing on 1 leg (for example, when you’re getting dressed)
- Turning over in bed
- Moving your legs apart (for example, when you get out of the car*)
After being diagnosed and referred to physio I got told that I had to stop my gym membership and any physical activity including swimming. For someone who trains regularly 3-5 times per week that was difficult to take. After a minor melt down and a chat with my partner I decided to figure out a way to still stay fit and focus on nutrition so that I can return to exercise quicker after our daughter arrives. Here are things that helped me:
- Walked slowly the long route which was flatter, so I didn’t have to tackle any hills
- Took rests when I needed
- I did the following pelvis exercise daily which didn’t take long for each round:
- Lie on your back or stand against a wall, knees bent or in a squat position if against a wall. Arms relaxed on your side.
- Place a small Pilates ball between your knees. Squeeze the ball so you feel tension in your inner thighs.
- Inhale through the nose for a count of 10, with each inhale squeeze the pelvic floor a little harder
- Then breath out and release slightly not fully inhaling 10 times
- Repeat around 7 times a day
- Maintained upper body weights but sitting on a exercise ball and working my shoulders, biceps, triceps and chest muscles
- Press ups against the wall to maintain upper body strength
- Joined a pregnancy yoga class which made a huge difference for my mind and body as well as helped me to sleep much better as the instructor showed me ways to get more comfortable especially in the 3rd trimester
- Food prep is key. I didn’t stop cooking every Sunday for the week and didn’t eat for two to keep my confidence and energy levels up
These are all things that worked for me, however a recent study in Physiotherapy Research International conducted a study to review the effectiveness of stabilising exercises in the management of PGP during pregnancy and the postpartum period. They concluded that there is no sufficient evidence for clinicians to conclude the effectiveness of the exercises which included training of the abdominal muscles with co-activation of the lumbar multifidus at the lumbosacral region 3 times a week and that further studies are needed to identify the most effective length of stabilising exercise training**.
In summary, from my personal experience I would try out things that work for you but whatever you do don’t give up moving completely. Find a way to work around it and focus on nutrition as a goal if you are struggling to burn energy as it will make a huge difference postpartum.
Good luck on your pregnancy journey and do share them with me! Would be great to hear what others are experiencing.
** The effectiveness of stabilising exercises in pelvic girdle pain during pregnancy and after delivery: A systematic review. Physiotherapy Research International, Issue: Volume 23(1), January 2018. Author Almousa, S.