Advice on many aspects of life, including physical activity, manual therapy and massage, nutrition and sleep, can help a woman have a happy and healthy pregnancy as well as promoting healthier outcomes postpartum for both mother and baby. We, as physical therapists, are in an ideal position to give this advice and encouragement. This article describes the current guidelines so that you can tailor your recommendations according to the unique situation and pre-pregnancy exercise levels of each of your pregnant patients, enabling them all to have the best possible experience of pregnancy.
Content covered in this article includes:
- Physical Activity and Pregnancy
- Managing Back Pain Through Pregnancy
- Nutrition During Pregnancy
- Sleep Hygiene During Pregnancy
Where to download the article PDF
You can find the downloadable article PDF in the Media Contents box on the right hand side of this page (if you’re reading this article on a laptop or desktop) or click here.
- All women without contraindication should be physically active throughout pregnancy.
- Pregnant women should accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week to achieve meaningful physical and mental benefits and reductions in pregnancy complications.
- Pregnant women should incorporate a variety of aerobic and resistance training activities to achieve greater benefits.
- Fewer than 15% of women will actually achieve the minimum recommendation of physical activity per week.
- Absolute and relative contraindications to exercise should be adhered to.
- Approximately 50% of women experience low back or pelvic girdle pain during pregnancy; 25% continue to experience pain 1 year after delivery.
- Low back or pelvic girdle pain is associated with a decrease in regular physical activity during pregnancy.
- Physical activity and exercise performed during pregnancy decreases the severity of low back, pelvic and lumbopelvic pain.
- Complementary therapies (including craniosacral therapy, chiropractic, osteopathic manipulative treatment, and massage) can decrease pain intensity and are safe during pregnancy.
- A healthy diet and supplements will help regulate gestational weight gain, promote physical activity and glucose control, which may affect the health of the mother and baby long term.
- New evolving theories suggest sleep hygiene is critical for the long-term health of the mother and foetus.
- What physical activities or exercises do you promote to pregnant women most often, knowing they may enjoy it and be more compliant? (For example, yoga, aquacise, walking, resistance exercises…)
- Are there any specific exercises or treatment techniques/modalities that you choose to avoid when managing a pregnant patient with back pain?
- What tips, treatments or routines do you advise to promote relaxation and better sleep during pregnancy?
“Physical activity has been proposed as a measure to reduce pregnancy complications that are likely to be caused by maternal obesity”
“Combining aerobic and resistance training activities demonstrated greater improvements in pregnancy outcomes than aerobic activity alone”
“Evidence suggests that prenatal exercise is an effective treatment to decrease the severity of low back pain during pregnancy”
“During pregnancy, nutrient-dense rather than energy-dense foods should be chosen from all four food groups”
“Encouraging good sleep hygiene in pregnancy may improve maternal–foetal outcomes”