Matthew Squires explains the benefits of physiotherapy for pre and post pregnant clients. With so much focus during pregnancy on ensuring the baby enters the world happy and healthy, the dangers affecting the health and wellbeing of the mother can be somewhat overlooked.
Pregnancy puts a great deal of pressure on a mother’s body with women facing multiple challenges, including being in the five per cent of women that develop gestational diabetes. Post birth is no different with a high rise of prolapses, incontinence and chronic back pain issues, which may arise.
The Australian Diabetes in Pregnancy Society (ADIPS), believes that exercise reduces the risk of gestational diabetes by up to 65% in those who are already at risk. They have formally adopted the World Health Organisation criteria for the diagnosis of gestational diabetes on 1 January 2015, which aims to reduce perinatal morbidity, with the use of screening programs for gestational diabetes, and treating women who are diagnosed.
Matthew Squires, Founder of Physio Gym physiotherapy, is committed to assisting women look after their own bodies before, during and after pregnancy. Physio Gym physiotherapy has developed its unique B.I.R.T.H program – Birthing and Improve the Road to Recovery. It was developed based upon Squires’ experience of training women during pregnancy and managing their post-birth recovery (www.physiogym.net.au).
Exercise during pregnancy was not always encouraged but significant changes have occurred over the years. It was common belief among health professionals that pregnant women should not exercise excessively over concerns for the safety of the growing fetus, as set out in the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), 1985 guidelines. Today, these guidelines have strongly changed in a positive direction for all pregnant women. The ACSM now advocate 30 minutes or more of moderate to intense exercise on most days, if not all days for pregnant women in the absence of any medical or obstetric conditions.
Moderate to intense physical movement is defined as activity with an energy requirement of three to five metabolic equivalents (METS). For most healthy adults, this corresponds to brisk walking at four to five to 6.5km per hour. The ACSM recognises the fact that the more intense the exercise is performed in 20 to 60-minute sessions, within a period of 3-5 days per week, an increased level of physical fitness will result. These recommendations are endorsed by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist (ACOG) who view that:
“Pregnancy should not be a state of confinement, and pregnant women with uncomplicated pregnancies should be encouraged to continue and engage in physical activities. Recreational and competitive athletes with uncomplicated pregnancies may remain active during pregnancy… All active pregnant women should be examined periodically to assess the effects of their exercise programmes on the developing fetus… (and) exercise has minimal risks and confirmed benefits for most women”.
The benefits of exercising during pregnancy are significantly beneficial as it physically conditions the body to withstand the rigours of childbirth and aid recovery post birth.
With one third of women experiencing a compromised pelvic floor post-birth, programs such as B.I.R.T.H help women strengthen their pelvic floor in conjunction with vital breathing techniques in order to combat this common issue.
Keeping active is safe and healthy for both mother and baby with 99% of health professionals deeming exercise as healthy for pregnant women in a study conducted by Dr Patricia Bauer and colleagues (2010).
Surprisingly, the Journal of Woman’s Health found that 86% of obstetricians were not even aware of the ACOG, 1994 guidelines, recommending pregnant women to increase their exercise capacity.
It is important for fitness professionals, obstetricians and physiotherapists to work together in order to prepare pregnant women for birth and recovery. Pregnant women should be encouraged and reassured about exercise and its benefits in order to reduce the number of women experiencing issues, leaving them to focus on the joys of parenthood.
Article written by Matthew Squires for What’s New in Fitness magazine Winter 2015 edition.