Physical therapists are moving beyond therapeutics and establishing prominent roles in preventive care. Physical therapists, have a unique opportunity to enhance the pregnancy experience for scores of women each year. And while therapeutic intervention is undoubtedly a significant part of this, actively promoting and assisting with preventive health measures is equally as important. "Helping expectant and new mothers establish beneficial and safe exercise programs is one of the many ways we can help improve their health and well being," according to OCH Physical Therapist Carol Walters.
According to Walters, "Exercising is good for healthy pregnant women, provided that the type, intensity and duration of it are adapted for each woman's medical history and point in pregnancy. Expectant mothers should adjust exercise intensity and duration based on maternal symptoms and pre-pregnant activity level. They should stop exercising when they become fatigued and never exercise to the point of exhaustion." The therapist added that pregnant women who have been leading sedentary lifestyles should begin low-intensity exercise and increase activity levels gradually based on tolerance.
It is important to note that pregnant women should gain physican approval prior to initiating an exercise program. In addition, Walters said expectant mothers should avoid any type of exercise requiring them to lie on their backs after the first trimester, and all cardiovascular exercise should be preceded by a thorough warm-up and stretching period, as well as cool-down and stretching period. She outlines the following components as important aspects of a quality prenatal exercise program:
* flexibility exercises
* cardiovascular activity
* strengthening exercises
It is important that these activities be performed in moderation. Should the client experience any unusual symptoms -- such as severe pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, heart palpitations, contractions, vaginal bleeding or absence of fetal movement -- activities should be discontinued immediately and her physician contacted. Because a woman's core body temperature is already slightly elevated during pregnancy, she should make it a point to exercise only in well-ventilated areas and to drink plenty of fluids during the process to help prevent dehydration.
There are a variety of activities that pregnant women can enjoy; walking (especially for those who were sedentary prior to pregnancy) and aquatic exercise, which can prove highly enjoyable due to the buoyancy effect of the water.
Exercise is beneficial for all of us, and pregnant women are no exception. By participating in a safe, well-planned exercise regimen, expectant mothers can enhance their health and well-being during pregnancy and improve their delivery experience.
For more information about developing a safe prenatal exercise program, contact OCH Physical Therapy at (662) 615-3020.