Top 3 Myths of Pregnancy – Busted!

When you’re pregnant, it can sometimes seem like everyone’s got an opinion about what you should or shouldn’t be doing. From magazines, to blog posts, to old wives tales…there’s no shortage of ‘advice’ floating around, but how much of it is actually true!? With this post, I aim to bust some common myths with real evidence to help you feel informed!

MYTH #1: Exercise during pregnancy is dangerous for me and/or my baby

FALSE! Exercise is safe during normal pregnancies and actually prevents complications like excessive weight gain, gestational diabetes, and high blood pressure. Recent studies show that engaging in physical activity during pregnancy has no risk of adverse outcomes or complications. The current guidelines recommend that all women without contraindications (see list below) should be physically active throughout pregnancy, aiming for 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity each week (spread out over at least 3 days). If you were previously active, you can safely continue your exercise program – with a few exceptions. It’s recommended to avoid activities that have a risk of falling or getting hit (like horseback riding, skiing, and contact sports), avoid exercising in high altitude or excessive heat, and avoid scuba diving. You should also know the reasons to stop physical activity (see list below) and self-monitor for symptoms. If you were not previously active, you can start with 15 minutes of exercises 3x/week and work up to 30-40 minute sessions from there. A pelvic health physiotherapist can help guide you to find an appropriate exercise routine during pregnancy. To summarize: Not only is exercise safe for the majority of women during pregnancy, but it’s recommended!

Absolute Contraindications to Exercise:

-Ruptured membranes, premature labour
-Unexplained persistent vaginal bleeding
-Placenta previa after 28 weeks gestation
-Pre-eclampsia
-Incompetent cervix
-Intrauterine growth restrictions
-High-order multiple pregnancy (eg. triplets)
-Uncontrolled type 1 diabetes, high blood pressure, or thyroid disease
-Other severe cardiovascular, respiratory, or systemic disorder

Reasons to stop physical activity and consult a health care provider:

-Persistent excessive shortness of breath that doesn’t resolve with rest
-Severe chest pain
-Regular and painful uterine contractions
-Vaginal bleeding
-Persistent loss of fluid from the vagina (rupture of membranes)
-Persistent dizziness or faintness that doesn’t resolve with rest

For more detailed information, you can read our previous blog on the current medical guidelines for exercise during pregnancy.

MYTH #2: Leaking urine and having back pain are normal parts of pregnancy that will just go away after I deliver

FALSE! Yes, these are commonly reported symptoms during pregnancy, but they should not be accepted as normal because there’s much that can be done to resolve them. Referring back to myth #1, different types of exercises can be very helpful in combatting undesirable symptoms such as urinary incontinence and back pain. The best thing to do is to meet with a pelvic floor physio who can assess the strength and length of your muscles and give you some strategies to keep you comfortable and leak-free for the duration of your pregnancy. To summarize: you do NOT have to suffer with urinary leakage and back pain during pregnancy!

MYTH #3 Doing ab exercises during pregnancy will give me DRA (abdominal separation)

FALSE! Most (if not all) women will develop a diastasis rectus abdominus (DRA) during pregnancy. This occurs when the connective tissue between the vertical abdominal muscles becomes stretched as the belly grows to accommodate for baby. This is a totally normal physiologic change that facilitates a healthy pregnancy and therefore is not something that should be feared! It was previously thought that specific exercises like crunches and planks should be avoided during pregnancy because they could contribute to development of DRA. However, now we know that what’s more important is assessing each individual to see how they’re able to activate and control their core, and what movements and exercises they can tolerate. To summarize: The majority of women will develop a DRA during pregnancy and there are no specific exercises that cause it or make it worse, it’s best to be assessed to see what core exercises are appropriate for you!

References:

1) Mota, PG., Pascoal, AG., Carita AI,. Bo, K. Prevalence and risk factors of diastasis recti abdominis from late pregnancy to 6 months postpartum, and relationship with lumbo-pelvic pain. Man Ther. 20(1): 200-5. 2014.

2) Davies, GAL., Wolfe, LA., Mottola, MF., and MacKinnon, C. (2003). Joint SOGC/CSEP Clinical Practice Guideline: Exercise in pregnancy and the postpartum period. Can. J. Appl. Physiol. 28(3): 329-341. 2003.

3) Sansawang B, Sansawang N. Stress urinary incontinence in pregnant women: a review of prevalence, pathophysiology, and treatment. Int Urogynecol J. 2013 Jun;24(6):901-912.

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