This is an excerpt from Pregnancy Fitness by Julia Di Paolo,Samantha Montpetit-Huynh & Kim Vopni.
Pregnancy is an ideal time to learn about and train the pelvic floor. It will undergo considerable changes in pregnancy and face significant challenges during birth, so you want to make sure it is optimized and ready to handle whatever labor and birth bring its way. It is also important to know how to best heal your pelvic floor once your baby is born.
The current trend in pregnancy fitness is for women to lift really heavy weights while pregnant and then return to high-intensity training mere weeks after the baby is born. Extremes in pregnancy are applauded, and many women are now pursuing or continuing high-intensity activities during their pregnancy. While we certainly believe that women can and should move, lift, pull, carry, twist, and bend, we don’t believe that it should be done at the intensity that is currently the trend. While pregnancy shouldn’t stop you from being active, we recommend that you modify certain activities so that your pelvic floor and core are not forced to deal with more than they already are. We also don’t believe that harder, faster, heavier is the way to recover, either. Too many times we have seen women jump back into fitness far too soon with a body that simply was not ready, only to regret the decision and be faced with pelvic floor dysfunction that required major modifications to their movement lifestyle.
Slow, steady, and gradual progression is what the body needs to recover. It took nine months to grow a person, followed by the demands of birth. It is not realistic to think that the body, especially the pelvic floor, is ready for intense activity such as bouncing, jumping, or heavy lifting in the early months postpartum. In reality, it will take between 4 to 12 months to truly be ready to return to the higher-impact activities like boot camp, CrossFit, or running. Start with low-impact activities like squats, lunges, walking, cycling, and swimming. Scale back the intensity of your favorite classes as you start to reintegrate impact movements. As you retrain your system, your strength and endurance will return, and when your body is ready, you will be able to resume training with higher-impact activities.
Scaling down and choosing low-or no-impact activities in your pregnancy can go a long way to preserving the integrity of your pelvic floor. Training during pregnancy is less about reaching distance goals or weight goals, and more about readying your body for one of the most challenging events you will ever do. Taking steps to modify your exercise routine as your pregnancy progresses and rebuilding your fitness with retraining movement postpartum is your best insurance policy to prevent pelvic floor dysfunction. Working with this preventive mindset will set you up for a more comfortable pregnancy, a better birth, and a smoother transition to motherhood!