Pregnancy Articles

Injury Prevention in Pregnancy - Part 2

Practical Methods

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Your body undergoes many changes during pregnancy, which make you more vulnerable to injury and pain. To learn about these changes, read "Injury Prevention in Pregnancy Part I: An Introduction".

You're always advised to check with your doctor before beginning or continuing an exercise program once pregnant. As stated by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), you should not exercise if you have any of the following complications: pregnancy-induced hypertension, ruptured membranes, premature labor, persistent bleeding after 12 weeks, a cervix that dilates ahead of schedule (incompetent cervix), poor fetal growth, multiple birth pregnancy, placental disease, or a history of three or more miscarriages or premature labor.

If none of these apply to you, and your doctor gives you the "OK," then the ACOG suggests aiming for 30 minutes (or more) of moderate exercise each day, on most days of the week.

To prevent injuries that pregnant women are vulnerable to, be sure to include a proper warm up, a cool down with stretching, strength training, and cardiovascular work. Kegel and abdominal exercises will round out a program nicely. To understand each component's importance in injury prevention, we will discuss each individually.

Warm-up
The primary focus of a proper warm up is to prepare the body for exercise. You should first walk or bike to get your blood flowing, and then begin a light range of motion routine. Start with your head, and work toward your feet to gradually loosen all of the joints:
  1. First do head rolls, then backward shoulder rolls, followed by backward arm circles (always backward to counteract the forward posture of your head, shoulders, and chest).
  2. Next, rotate your trunk and bend side to side, tilt your pelvis backward and forward, and do a few kegel contractions.
  3. Last, swing each leg from front to back and side to side, and finally lift your leg and make a circle with your foot.
Do about 5-8 reps at each joint to ensure that each joint is loose and ready to work. Stretching is safer once the muscles are warm, so the cool down will be a more important time to focus on static stretching.

Cool Down & Stretching
A proper cool down is important to return the heart rate* to resting level, prevent muscle soreness, and reduce injury. This is also the most effective time to stretch, because the muscles are warm and pliable. Stretches should be held for 15-20 seconds and each can be repeated 2-3 times. Due to the changes the body undergoes with pregnancy there are certain muscles that deserve extra focus, especially those that tighten as the body changes: calves, hamstrings (back of thigh), quadriceps (front of thigh), hip flexors, low back, pectorals (chest), shoulder, and neck. Injury and aches can be prevented if proper postural alignment is maintained.
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About The Author

Sara Hambidge
Sara, a graduate of Saint Louis University's Physical Therapy Program, practices at a sports medicine clinic in Cincinnati. A certified prenatal and postpartum exercise instructor, Sara is also a proud mother of one.
Sara Hambidge

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