Pregnancy and Exercise

Featuring Dr. Katie Menard, DPT  (@katermenard on Instagram)

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Many of our clients are women in their 20’s and 30’s and as a result, we’ve helped several clients work on their own personal fitness as they go through pregnancy.  A quick Google search for “exercise while pregnant” will show many differing opinions as to the best course of action women should take as they progress through each stage of pregnancy.  This often leads to confusion and apprehension when it comes to the expecting mothers’ own workout routine.

Luckily one of our amazing clients, Katie Menard, is a Doctor of Physical Therapy with a specialty in pelvic floor rehabilitation!  Katie was generous enough to lend her advice and answer some of the most common questions we get  about exercise and pregnancy. 

 If you’re pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant and have questions as to what this means for your own fitness journey, this interview is for you!

#1: Tell us a little about yourself, your credentials and experience:

“My name is Katie Menard and I graduated as a Doctor of Physical Therapy from The Ohio State

University in 2017! In addition, I have taken several continuing education courses and certifications in

the realm of pelvic health and fitness as it relates to the pregnant and postpartum population. In 2021, I sat for and passed the Orthopedic Certified Specialist exam as well. I have been treating the pregnant population since graduating from PT school, and the active pregnant + postpartum population is my favorite group to treat! I have a 2-year-old daughter and I am also pregnant with my 2nd child, due in May.” 

#2: What are the biggest benefits to exercise while pregnant?

“It can help reduce the likelihood of back and pelvic girdle pain during pregnancy, which can be quite common. It helps to promote healthy weight gain during pregnancy and can decrease your risk of pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, and cesarean birth. Overall, it can improve your fitness and strengthen your heart and blood vessels.”

#3: If you haven’t been consistently exercising, should you start while you’re pregnant?

“As long as you are healthy and have a normal pregnancy, you are safe to start exercising during pregnancy. Always discuss starting an exercise program with your OB or midwife. Contrary to popular

belief, exercise has not been found to increase your risk of miscarriage, low birth weight, or preterm

labor. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists recommend at least 150 minutes (about 2 and a half hours) of moderate intensity exercise per week!”

#4: If you have been consistently exercising, how much should you change your routine?

If a woman has been consistently exercising prior to pregnancy, there is not a lot that she needs to change in her routine! There are some changes from trimester to trimester that you may want to follow:

  1. 1st trimester: There are no real changes that need to be made to your routine. Typically, the biggest limitation in this trimester will be energy level changes and nausea. Making sure that you stay well hydrated and are not feeling dizzy or light-headed is important during the first trimester as well. 
  2. 2nd trimester: At this point, we tend to stop doing exercises in the prone position (on your belly). Some of the other changes will be very dependent on the client and how they are feeling. The first adjustment that may need to be made is reducing high impact. As the baby grows and the weight of the uterus increases, they may need to modify or eliminate movements like jump rope and box jumps if the movement feels difficult to control or is causing any discomfort. However, some clients may feel just fine continuing these movements!
    Core exercises typically need to be modified at this stage. I typically switch from movements like crunches and sit-ups to ones that focus more on the deep core such as the Pallof press, chops, bird dogs, and variations of the side plank or Copenhagen plank. Focus on good breath work.
  3. 3rd trimester: We want to begin focusing on pelvic floor relaxation to prepare for birth, continue focusing on stability of our back and hips and continue to reduce our volume and load. We don’t want to overstress our body during this time. Clients may find themselves reducing the depth and weight of their squats, transitioning from a barbell deadlift to something like an elevated sumo deadlift or trap bar deadlift, and may be completing bench press at an incline.

#5: Are there any myths or misconceptions that you’d like to clear up?

“A few myths that I see regarding exercising in pregnancy are that you shouldn’t exercise on your back, perform twisting movements, or lift above “x” number of pounds. In general, exercising on

your back for a few minutes at a time is completely safe. If you have any symptoms of lightheadedness, dizziness, or pain, that is your sign to switch positions. When it comes to twisting, we are not meant to move like robots! Twisting is OK and even beneficial. Several core exercises that I have performed in both of my pregnancies involve twisting (such as a Pallof press with a twist). Lastly, everyone will have different limits to how much they can lift during pregnancy.”

#6: Under what circumstances would you recommend seeking a pelvic floor PT, and how could our readers set up a time to work with you in person? 

“If you are experiencing any pelvic, back, or hip pain during pregnancy, please don’t ignore it and make an appointment to see a pelvic floor PT! We can also help with incontinence, pelvic pressure, coning or doming concerns in your abdomen, education on labor and delivery, or even for guidance on how to progress your personal exercise program through your pregnancy.

If you need some pelvic floor therapy in your life, you can come see me at Cleveland Clinic Lutheran

Hospital in Ohio City. Our direct phone number is 216-363-2083 and I would love to help you out. Right now, booking a new evaluation can take anywhere from 4-6 weeks. We take all types of insurance! Always check with your insurance company to learn about your specific coverage for physical therapy :)”
Thank you Katie for taking the time and thank you for reading!  If you’re pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant and are interested in improving your health and fitness, we highly recommend you work with a team of experienced professionals along the way.  We’ve got you covered!

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