Keeping Fit and Active During Pregnancy

Exercise can improve your health and that of your baby too. Research has produced reliable evidence and practical guidelines outlining the safety and benefits of physical activity during pregnancy. The Chief Medical Officers' Guideline for Physical Activity and Pregnancy recommends 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity exercise during pregnancy. For some women there may be complications that affect their pregnancy and physical activity may not be recommended so please check with your GP, midwife, and/or women's health physiotherapist before starting a new exercise regime.

Every woman will have a different fitness level before they become pregnant.  You should aim to maintain or moderately improve your level of fitness. For uncomplicated pregnancy and low risk pregnancy, physical activity has many important health benefits.

  • Reduces risk of high blood pressure
  • Reduces risk of gestational diabetes
  • Helps you to maintain a healthy weight and return to your pre pregnancy weight more easily
  • Reduces your baby’s risk of developing childhood obesity, diabetes and heart disease later in life
  • Mental health benefits – improves mood, reduces anxiety and stress and improves sleep pattern
  • Reduces risk of post natal depression
  • Increases strength and stamina
  • Prepares you for labour and delivery
  • Reduces aches and pains during pregnancy, such as pelvic or back pain

What can you do?

Pelvic Girdle, Back and Hip pain

During pregnancy, 20% of women experience discomfort in their pelvis and hips (pelvic girdle pain or PGP) and approximately 50% women experience back pain.

If your symptoms are affecting your ability to complete every day activities or to continue working the following advice and self management resources can help you to manage symptoms and improve your strength and fitness to cope better.

If your symptoms are unmanageable your midwife, GP or obstetrician can refer you to the pregnancy related pain advice class. As pelvic health physiotherapists we are able to address these problems associated with your pregnancy. You can talk to a physiotherapist about your symptoms and they will advise if you need further assessment.

What can you do?

Abdominal Muscle Separation

Also known Diastasis Recti, Diastasis Rectus Abdominus Muscles, DRA or DRAM.

During pregnancy some women develop a gap in their abdominal muscles as their baby grows and develops. It is important to know how to measure this gap and what advice and exercises to follow postnatally to help manage it. If you have abdominal separation during pregnancy your midwife, GP or obstetrician may refer you to physiotherapy for assessment and to teach you abdominal exercises to maintain your strength until your baby is born.

What can you do?

  • Avoid activities and exercises which cause doming in the middle of your abdomen
  • To get out of bed, roll onto your side to avoid putting extra stress on your abdomen
  • Try tubigrip or high waisted maternity clothes to give you some support

Incontinence during pregnancy

Incontinence can affect up to 40% of pregnant women and can persist after childbirth in up to 43% of women. It is NOT normal for incontinence to persist post birth and it can be successfully treated with pelvic floor exercises. Different foods & drink, especially those containing caffeine may irritate and therefore make symptoms of incontinence worse. Constipation can also affect incontinence and straining to open your bowels can weaken your pelvic floor muscles.

If your midwife has referred you to physiotherapy due to urinary leakage or incontinence during pregnancy, you will be invited to attend an assessment.  The assessment will last no more than 60 minutes and will involve teaching the correct technique for pelvic floor exercises and also lifestyle changes that may help. 

What can you do?

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common problem affecting the wrist and hand during pregnancy. It affects approximately 62% of pregnant women. The symptoms include pins and needles or numbness of the wrist and fingers, wrist pain, reduced grip strength and reduced dexterity (eg difficulty completing intricate tasks such as doing up buttons or tying laces).  The symptoms tend to increase at night and cause sleep disturbance.  This is commonly due to fluid (oedema) in the Carpal Tunnel which increases the pressure on the nerve running through the wrist.  If the wrist can be kept neutral and the oedema reduced, the symptoms should ease.

Treatment of this condition involves the use of night splints, advice on avoiding extremes of wrist movements, control of swelling / oedema and simple exercises.  However, in some cases, steroid injections are required to ease the symptoms prior to delivery. In the majority of cases the pain dissipates after birth, but occasionally the symptoms can continue for up to 3 years after delivery.  It is important to remember that in most cases, splinting and self management is effective.  Further treatment is only required occasionally.

What can you do?

If you have been referred by your GP or midwife you will be sent a carpal tunnel information leaflet in the post or you can access it here Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in Pregnancy.