Carrying a little angel within you is a delicate yet cherished time for every woman. Depending on age, and medical status, every woman reacts to changes in hormonal level and physical status differently. It is recommended from almost all medical sources that an expecting woman should try to be active as long as she can be. There are many benefits of exercising during these crucial nine months. Pregnancy exercises help to improve physical mobility, energy level and also helps increase psychological well being.
Being active, however, does not mean running a marathon, or participating in a triathlon (although there are some exceptions). Being on your feet, and performing your daily activities may sometimes feel like running an Olympic race. However, the 5 to 10 minutes of walking can help a woman and her baby to be healthy. In this article, I want to discuss five MUST do Pregnancy exercises for a pregnant woman. Remember, these are kind of mandatory for all woman but the list does not end with this.
Kegel Exercises during pregnancy:
This is a lifesaver not only for expected women but for all women in general. This is the best way to strengthen pelvic floor muscles.
These exercises are very easy to do and can be done anywhere, any time, in any position. No one else needs to know that you are doing your homework while watching TV or cooking meals. By saying that, it is important that you perform this exercise correctly and work on the right muscles. It is a good idea to start by lying on your back initially until you get comfortable with the contraction. Once you get hang of it, you can perform these exercises in any position, and any time.
How to perform Kegel Exercises:
In order to perform these exercises, you need to contract your pelvic floor muscles and hold that contraction. The best way to describe pelvic floor contraction is, to either trying to stop your urine stream while urinating or trying to stop passing gas. Feel that contraction and hold that for 3 to 5 seconds without holding your breath.
You can start with 10 repetitions, three times a day with a hold of each contraction for 3 to 5 seconds or how long you can hold. Gradually, work your way up to holding a contraction to 10 to 15 seconds. As you advance in your pregnancy, it is ok to just start a timer for 2 minutes initially and work your way up to 5 minutes. Also, if you feel pain, or soreness while doing this or after doing this exercise, please stop performing this exercise and consult your doctor.
Be careful of not holding your breath, or using other nearby muscles like gluts or abdomen. Once you get hang of it, you should be able to perform it in any position.
Controversy for Kegel Exercises:
There are some arguments in medical society about whether Kegel exercises actually work or not. Majority of scientific research supports the use of Kegel exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles for both genders, at any time of your life. The benefits of kegel exercises are many including sexual performance enhancement, preventing erectile dysfunction, and improving urinary as well as prostate health.
However, there are times that people only rely on kegel exercises which can create a muscle imbalance between the pelvic floor and hips/glutes. To avoid that, it is important to work on glutes as well. Now when you are carrying a little human body inside you, it may be little difficult to perform that one more exercise so I will save this topic of glute exercises for another time and our other readers.
This is another exercise that you can perform at any time of your life, and anywhere. It really gives that instant relief from back pain. It is particularly important during pregnancy due to several changes taking place inside a woman’s body while carrying a baby. During pregnancy, body biomechanics as well as a center of gravity changes. This puts extra pressure on our back especially lower back. In addition, with new uninvited guests like fatigue and GI symptoms, a woman is less likely to stick to her daily routine of exercise. Moreover, some exercises and positions like pull-ups or crunches are not even allowed medically due to safety concerns. All of these, create an imbalance of back muscles and abdominal muscles, making the back pain more prominent.
Now, of course, you can use heat and some medicines to help with back pain. But this will come with some limitation or certain side effects. So here is the solution with no added side effects. Back isometrics exercises help instantly with back pain. It is also referred to as pelvic tilt exercises. Here is how to perform it.
How to Perform Back Isometrics during Pregnancy:
The picture below demonstrates how to perform this exercise in a supine (lying on your back) position. Now, if you already passed your first trimester, you want to avoid lying on your back for safety. The good news is that you can perform this exercise in sitting, side-lying or even standing position.
I perform back isometrics in sitting or long sitting (back supported with pillows, legs stretch, a pillow under knees, a good relaxing position as well) for a few minutes and relax those muscles.
Gradually, you can try to push back on the floor with your back muscles. This is as if you are trying to attempt to straighten your back – tilting your pelvis anteriorly (Anterior tilt of the pelvis is when two bony prominences on your hip area, moves forward).
You want to hold this position for 3 to 5 seconds, depending on pain level, and relax. Repeat it for 10 to 15 times.
The other thing I will say here the relief you get from back isometrics during pregnancy is not going to last for a few days (depending on your activity level and body ergonomics of course). So it is a good idea to perform this twice or even three times a day.
Breathing exercises are important at any stage of pregnancy and even during labor. In reality, breathing exercise is important even during a stressful time, even after delivery. It is a lifesaver when your toddler is throwing every utensil in the kitchen that you just cleaned (trust me those days will also come 🙂 )!! Contradictory, the breathing exercise for those stressful situations is going to be done differently than what we are going to describe in here. In addition, there are multiple approaches to breathing exercises during active labor, which we are not going to discuss here. I want to concentrate on daily exercises for nine months to keep a pregnant woman in better health.
How to Perform Breathing Exercise during Pregnancy:
If you are already performing a pregnancy yoga than you must also be doing breathing exercises called Pranayamas. This is a very relaxing and effective breathing exercise that you can perform.
The other option is to breathe from your stomach. You can choose to sit in a crossed-legged position, or in a supine lying position. Relax your body, and try to empty your mind ( I know the most difficult thing, especially when pregnant). But at least try to concentrate on something, and let it be your breath.
Now, breath in from your belly or lower abdomen, as deeply as your comfortable with. If you can hold your breath for 2 to 3 seconds, please do so. And gradually exhale, try to maintain the same pace while breathing out as you did for breathing in. Repeat it for 10 times or time your exercises for 3 minutes.
Gradually increase repetition or time up to 10 minutes if you can.
Ankle Pumps :
The easiest exercise of all. Just move your ankle. This is helpful for people with legs swelling. After all, calf muscles are the second heart of your body (the same pumping action as heart – but here it is against the gravity all the time).
Before you go to bed when you are browsing that FB posts or Instagram pictures, just move your ankles in up and down a few times. It is best to perform in long sitting where your legs and ankles are supported. But you can perform quick repetitions for 10 ankle pumps while sitting or even standing. I just did mine, to relax those muscles!!
Tailor sitting is not for everyone during pregnancy and needs to be done carefully. It stretches ligaments and muscles around the pelvic area, making a body more ready for a finale.
As shown in the figure, you are trying to sit on a yoga mat on a floor. If you can not sit on the floor, you can perform this position while sitting on a bed. I usually not recommend this exercise done in a bed as you are not going to gain the same benefits.
How to perform this position:
To perform Tailor sitting, you sit on the floor with knees bent and crossed ankles. Many times, a pregnant woman, can not cross her ankles, and that is absolutely fine. You can try to get to crossed leg position as much as you can. Now you can just stop here. Get to this position daily as much as you can.
If you are one of that physically active mom to be, you can perform Tailor press. For tailor press, you start at tailor sitting. From here, try to bring both of your ankles together, as the sole of both feet are touching or almost touching each other. If you can not touch both feet that is fine, stop where you need to. You can get to this position either daily or every other day.
Make sure you don’t overdo it. If you feel pain or discomfort, stop doing this exercise. The only thing you should feel really is a gentle stretch. Not even a severe stretch. Remember, Pregnancy hormones loosen up all ligaments and muscles, so it is easy to injure them. So be careful. And again, don’t overdo or overstretch.
I know I said five. This one is a bonus one. Know that this is not for everyone and this needs to be done cautiously. Just like the tailor sitting, performing squats are very helpful to stay healthy. Improve core and glute strength and also to stretch that pelvis and uterine muscles and ligaments. This not only helps you to be in good shape during pregnancy but also helps with labor. With maintaining this flexibility and strength, you are going to prepare yourself for that tough painful labor times.
Squatting during pregnancy also helps with proper body positioning and preventing back pain. The reason being if you can squat, you won’t be bending forward – which you should not be doing anyway.
While performing squats, you don’t have to go all the way down, you can perform a baby squat. Also, as your center of gravity is changed, and your balance is affected during pregnancy, it is a good idea to perform this exercise when you can get to some steady support easily if needed. So having a steady table or a wall near you is a good alternative. In the beginning, you can also use the wall as support with your hand to perform squats.
How to Perform Squatting during Pregnancy:
Depending on your time and lifestyle, you can perform 5 to 10 repetitions twice a day. Or you can aim at getting 20 or 25 squats done per day and do it throughout the day during your daily activities. Some of these examples, are squatting during loading, unloading laundry, picking something up off the floor (although this is tough in the third trimester), getting something out from that kitchen cabinet where you usually bend forward, etc.. Be careful while multitasking as it is not for everyone. You don’t want to try to save time, exercise, and injure yourself where you can not perform any exercise at all.
So this is the end of this article. These are kind of basics, can be performed anywhere, any time yet MUST TO DO during pregnancy. Remember, this does not a substitute for your cardio or resistance training.
I hope this article helps you to understand some easy yet important exercises during the most exciting time of your life.