Many women experience postural issues and discomfort during pregnancy, which can be worsened when combined with a lengthy commute to work. Osteopath and doula, Avni Trivedi offers advice on how to ease symptoms and what exercises to do in order to prevent discomfort.
Since I became pregnant, I have started to regularly get a sore back. What tips would you recommend for easing my back pain?
It’s a myth that you should have to experience lower back pain in pregnancy. It can be a common pregnancy symptom, but some simple steps can leave you free of pain. First, make sure you are active. Our increasingly sedentary lifestyles can fatigue the muscles in the lower back, as we are designed to move, not just sit. Make sure you get up frequently from your desk – approximately every 40 minutes is ideal. Get in the habit of sitting on the floor, or on a gym ball when you are at home, so that you encourage your body to be flexible and comfortable. Get in a weekly routine of yoga, Pilates, swimming, or any other exercise that will support your back. Tell the instructor that you are experiencing a sore back and they will give you tips on how to avoid straining it. Ask your partner to massage your back. If the pain persists, see an osteopath or ask if your local health services have any antenatal programmes for back pain. Wear a haramaki or belly warmer, which gives comfort to the lower back and still allows you to move comfortably. Factor in time each day to rest, in well aligned and comfortable positions such as lying on your side. The hormone relaxin softens ligaments in the pelvis but also throughout the body. To minimise straining these ligaments, move within the normal range of your body, rather than at the end of the range of your joints e.g. by avoiding unnecessary twists.
I’m six months pregnant and am already finding the commute to work very tiring, which means that I am often exhausted and irritable by the time I get into the office! What can you recommend to make the journey a bit easier?
Working during pregnancy is often challenging as there can be a conflict between your health needs versus what you need to accomplish at work. In order to make the most of both demands, be proactive. Take advantage of any wellbeing initiatives your workplace has introduced, such as flexi hours so that you don’t have to battle with the busiest times of travel. Or, see if you can negotiate working from home some of the time – as long as you have WiFi and a phone line this is often possible. Many companies successfully used work from home strategies during the London 2012 Olympics. This way, you avoid the arduous commute and have more time to look after yourself. When commuting, don’t be shy to ask for a seat, and plan your journey so that you can walk in the fresh air for some of the way. The nervous system is much more alert in pregnancy, so crowds can lead to an exaggerated stress response. If you do get het up, make sure you release any tension in your body and breathe slowly and deeply so you can let go of any stress.
Before becoming pregnant, I used to be very active and loved group exercise. However, I’ve had to stop these in recent months and am aware that my fitness and posture are suffering as a result. What exercises would you recommend for doing on my own?
It’s important to be active in pregnancy, as long as the activity doesn’t cause undue stress on the body. You don’t need to work out until you’re out of breath, but it’s still the right time to build strength and flexibility. Whilst your previous class might not be suitable any more, it’s worth exercising in a group. It’s important to choose things that you enjoy, as this enables feel-good hormones – endorphins to be released which positively affect the body and mind. Life is too short not to do things you enjoy! Pregnancy yoga is helpful, as is Pilates. If you prefer to be outside, there are often local classes that meet in the park. Antenatal classes are a great way of getting to know other women at a similar stage of pregnancy – invaluable for support, sharing resources and making friends that will soon have a baby too. For exercising at home, have a few pieces of equipment such as a gym ball and yoga mat. Exercises on all fours are a great way of mobilising the spine, which is perfect for easing out tension that can otherwise lead to pain. When you exercise in this way, avoid other distractions so you can tune into your body and move in a way that feels right. Should you want more instruction, there are various DVDs available, especially for pregnancy fitness and wellbeing.
For more expert information visit: www.greatvine.com/avni-trivedi