Loving your body during pregnancy — and after it

Pregnancy can be an amazing thing! Women’s bodies are capable of creating new life, but the physical changes can be difficult. Hormonal shifts, weight gain, chronic back pain, and swelling in the hands and feet are all common side effects of pregnancy. We’ve talked to several experts about various ways to love your pregnant body and take care of it during these strange and wonderful nine months. (40 weeks — but who’s counting?)

Class of pregnant women exercising to stay healthy.

Keep moving.

Ann Cowlin can’t say enough about how healthy moms have healthy babies. As the creator of Physiquality partner, Dancing Thru Pregnancy, she has been helping women exercise during pregnancy for more than 40 years. Most importantly, exercise helps women prepare for childbirth. “Few women exercise enough today to build the strength necessary for childbirth,” says Ann. “It’s no surprise that some women are afraid of birth and don’t have confidence in their ability to withstand it.”

Staying active also helps pregnant women gain weight at a safe pace (one that’s tricky to measure). Ann points out that during pregnancy, women’s metabolism and insulin levels change, which is why some doctors recommend eating smaller meals throughout the day. Being active and eating healthy food in small quantities every few hours helps maintain normal metabolism.

Listen to your body.

As your pregnant body grows, it’s common to feel back pain. The PTs at MOTI Physiotherapy, a Physiquality member with two clinics in Los Angeles, California, notes that the added weight and location of the baby can play with your posture and balance, causing muscles to overwork. An exercise program that takes into account such body changes, allowing women to safely strengthen their core, shoulders and back, can improve posture and reduce pain.

Pregnant woman holding her baby belly

Be sure to pay close attention to your pain as pregnancy can put pressure on the sciatic nerve, causing tingling and pain down the leg. While this doesn’t cause long-term harm to your body, it can make it difficult to sleep (when expecting parents know that soon enough, something else will be keeping them awake at night). Whether it’s back pain that makes it difficult to function during the day, or sciatica that keeps you up at night, physical therapists can work with you to strengthen your body, reduce such pain, and keep your doctor informed as well.

Take care of yourself after the birth.

It can be hard to think about starting an exercise routine when your daily routine is upended by a baby that has no qualms about requesting a meal at 3 a.m. Something as simple as a daily walk, with or without a stroller, can help with heart health – and a bit of fresh air for your mental health too. As you start feeling stronger and less-sleep deprived, consider trying an at-home workout developed for moms, or a low-impact exercise class (in-person or online).

Listen to your body, just like you did during pregnancy. Many new moms can develop neck, shoulder and upper back problems from feeding and carrying their baby, notes the team at Progressive Physical Therapy and Rehab, a Physiquality member with multiple clinics in Orange County, California. Physical therapists can work with new moms to improve their posture and strengthen muscles that may be overworked. While it may be challenging to schedule an appointment with a PT when there’s a new baby at home, it’s better to do so sooner rather than later, before a minor ache can develop into major pain.

Happy mother holding her smiling baby while outside.

When a woman finds out she is pregnant, especially for the first time, it can be easy to be overwhelmed. A lack of knowledge or unrealistic expectations about pregnancy and parenthood can create feelings of inadequacy and fear. Ann points out that knowledge is power! She says, “Understanding some the basics of healthy behavior, and learning to take care of a body we are sharing with a developing human, can help us have an amazing experience.”

If you want to talk to a physical therapist about becoming more active before, during or after pregnancy, use our locator below to find a Physiquality member clinic near you.

Thank you to our contributors:

Ann Cowlin, MA, CSM, CCE (ACBE), is the creator of Dancing Thru Pregnancy, one of Physiquality’s partner programs. She is an assistant clinical professor at the Yale University School of Nursing, as well as a movement specialist with the Athletic Department. Ann is also the author of Women’s Fitness Program Development, a guide to creating girls’ and women’s health and fitness programming, and the expert consultant for the U.S. Army’s Pregnancy and Postpartum Train the Trainer Program.

Physiquality member MOTI Physiotherapy has two locations in the Los Angeles area, in Los Feliz and Highland Park. Staffed completely with therapists who have completed doctorates in PT, their approach analyzes the whole person…looking at their movement patterns and lifestyle to develop a truly personalized treatment experience, with an emphasis on functional therapeutic exercise.

Founded in 2004, Progressive Physical Therapy and Rehab is a Physiquality member with three locations in Orange County, California. Their primary goal is successful personal outcomes, allowing patients to return to daily and physical activities as quickly and safely as possible.

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