RESEARCH REVIEW – IT’S A PAIN IN THE PELVIS
Did you know your exercise history affects your pelvis during pregnancy?
For months or years your motivation to set off on that morning run, walk into the aerobics studio, or bounce onto the netball court, might have been to feel fit, look good in a bikini, or for the joy of team sports. How would you feel if I told you all that sweat and burn has prenatal benefits you never even contemplated. Perhaps motherhood wasn't even on the radar, your unborn bub not yet so much as a twinkle in your eye, but you have actually enhanced your health and wellbeing as a mum to be. Working your body then created a level of pelvic health that will be very useful in the pregnancy you are now enjoying – or planning.
In fact, an exercise-focused review of 39,184 pregnant women enrolled in the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study, found that women who exercised 3-5 times weekly pre-pregnancy had a 14% lower risk of developing pelvic girdle pain during pregnancy.
Research shows that every time you pounded the pavement, felt the burn or jumped for that ball you increased your strength, fitness and flexibility. The higher level of these 3 factors contributes to the capacity of the pelvis to better cope with pregnancy.
And there's more. Research also notes that women who have a history of physical activity are more likely to continue exercising during pregnancy, therefore maintaining the strength and fitness they have built up in the months or years prior. Also, regular participation is exercise tends to be associated with a healthier Body Mass Index (BMI). It makes sense that starting your prenatal journey with, and maintaining a healthy body weight throughout pregnancy, will place less pressure on your pelvis, which is already challenged by the weight of the baby and the hormone induced laxity of the pelvic ligaments.
And it doesn't stop there, it is often reported that participation in exercise increases mental resilience and decreases pain sensitivity. So, even if as a regular exerciser you did experience a touch of pelvic pain during pregnancy, you are more able to cope with it as you don't 'feel' it as much and it doesn't bring you down emotionally.
K.M. Owe et al, 2015, Exercise level before pregnancy and engaging in high-impact sports reduces the risk of pelvic girdle pain, British Journal of Sports Medicine.