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Exercise in Pregnancy: Strategies to manage symptoms, part 1

Last week, we talked about exercise in pregnancy, what we should be listening for, and when to modify. Check it out HERE.

Today, I want to dive into some strategies that you can use to make adjustments to exercise to make it feel better for you in this season of life.

Pregnancy is an incredible thing, but it can make exercise a bit overwhelming at times. Instead of completely giving up on certain exercises all together, you can make some adjustments to how you are performing them to see if they work better in a different way.

Antony Lo’s (a very well-respected women’s health physio) famous phrase, “Do something different” is very applicable in the pregnancy and postpartum stages. Sometimes your movement won’t look like “textbook form” and that’s okay if it works better for you in the moment and it isn’t causing symptoms.

Before jumping into the strategies, I want to give a few examples of scenarios of when you will want to modify or change up your movement:

  • ANY amount of unintentional leaking (urine or feces)

  • Pelvic pain or pressure

  • Heaviness or a bulge feeling in the vagina

  • Coning or doming along the midline of the abdomen

  • Pulling sensations in the abdomen

  • Rib pain

  • Pain during or after exercise (back, hips, pelvic, belly)

Now, onto strategies I use with my clients.

The first thing that can be really helpful to determine how you are moving in the first place is to bring some awareness to how you are sitting, standing, and carrying yourself throughout workouts and throughout the day.

Are you standing with your butt tucked under or clenched?

Or maybe your butt is sticking out with a big arch in your back and your ribcage is flared up?

Are you gripping or squeezing any part of your body (check fists, jaw, shoulders, belly, butt, pelvic floor, etc.)?

These positions aren’t inherently bad, however, when you start experiencing symptoms like leaking, pelvic pressure, back pain, abdominal pain, etc., your core and pelvic floor may thank you for shifting into a different position.

Our bodies are not made to be in the same position all day; we are meant to shift in and out of positions (even the ones that may seem less-than-ideal), but as pregnancy progresses, women sometimes end up resorting to the same posture throughout most of the day to counter a growing belly.

If you notice you are doing a lot of one of those positions, one thing I like to have clients try out is to shift into a different position; maybe the one opposite of where they started. After trying out some different positions, try to find a neutral; something in between.

How does that feel?

Let’s take an overhead press as an example. As soon as you get the weight overhead, you feel pressure in your pelvic floor, pulling in your abdomen, and pain in your back. You notice that your back is arched a lot, your ribcage is rung up (breasts pointing up), and your butt is sticking way out.

From there, you could try bringing your ribcage down and back and letting your tailbone drop towards the floor a bit. This ends up being more of a stacked position with your ribs over your hips to reduce some of the additional pressure being put on those vulnerable areas.

In the images below I am demonstrating a couple of common postures that women find themselves in in pregnancy and postpartum.

  • In the first one, the butt is clenched and tucked under, shoulders forward, and ribs rung down-a common posture among new moms from feeding and carrying baby.

  • In the second, the ribs are rung up, back is arched, and the butt is sticking out-common in pregnancy to counter the weight of a growing belly.

  • In the third, the ribs are stacked over the hips in more of a neutral position.

As a reminder, there’s not just one way to carry yourself; move through different positions throughout the day and if experiencing symptoms, try something different to see if that helps.

Sometimes just shifting into a different position can be the strategy that helps, and other times you may need to try something else, or switch to another movement.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be diving into other strategies you can test out with exercise to find ways that feel good for you and to help you manage any symptoms you are experiencing.

Want more info on what strategies will be best for you and your journey? Fill out this form to schedule a FREE call with me to discuss how you can best navigate exercise in pregnancy!

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