Here are some points of difference:
When it comes to intensity, for non-pregnant people, the recommendation is moderate or high intensity. In pregnancy, it is recommended to keep to moderate intensity exercise, which is a rate where you could talk but not sing. You want to get a bit breathless and sweaty to get the benefits of moderate intensity exercise, without overheating or taking blood flow away from the baby.
Resistance exercises need to be done in a way that there is no risk of falling, of a weight hitting the abdomen, and without lying flat on your back. Lying flat on your back in the second half of pregnancy could decrease the blood flow to the baby due to the weight of the pregnant uterus, and so exercises in this position are advised to be avoided or modified to be on an incline.
Choosing low impact versions of cardio exercise, such as walking, swimming, stationary cycling or aqua aerobic, may decrease the pressure on your pelvic floor muscles, pelvic joints and leg joints compared to activities like jogging and skipping. Joints and pelvic floor muscles can be a bit more prone to injury during pregnancy due to the softening nature of the pregnancy hormones and the increasing weight of the baby through that area.
Abdominal muscle exercises are likely to need to be modified in the second half of pregnancy when the six pack muscles have started to stretch apart from each other to allow to baby to grow. Watching out for ‘doming’ and avoiding exercises that cause this (such as sit ups, planks, and Russian twists) will put less pressure on the stretched midline and may allow for an easier recovery for your abs after birth. Get an experienced professional to show you alternative forms of abdominal muscle exercises that don’t cause ‘doming’.
It is always recommended to seek guidance from your medical team with regards to exercise safety, and ideally also having guidance from a Women’s Health Physiotherapist, who can assess you and put in place an indvidualised exercise program to suit you.
Pelvic Floor Exercises
There is a huge amount of research that has shown that it is beneficial to do pelvic floor exercises in pregnancy!
It has been shown to decrease the risk during and after pregnancy of bladder and bowel leakage, and has been shown to decrease the amount of intervention needed in a vaginal birth.
But – the very important thing to note is that this research is not based on pelvic floor exercises learnt from a brochure or the internet.
This research has shown that the benefits are gained when pelvic floor exercises are individually assessed and prescribed to suit that particular pregnant woman.
Women’s Health Physiotherapists in your community can do an assessment via an abdominal ultrasound, or via a digital vaginal examination, and determine how many repetitions, how long you should hold for, how often you should do them, whether you need to focus more on the letting go aspect of the exercise (particularly important in a vaginal birth) and how you should incorporate this into your daily tasks or exercise.