Pregnancy & postnatal exercise: Is the fitness industry failing us?


Did you, or are you exercising during pregnancy? An article I recently read raised some valid points about something that has been particularly concerning to me lately – there are so many personal trainers and instructors in the fitness industry who claim to know how to train pregnant women (and postnatal women) without adequate knowledge. The ‘you can do anything you did before you were pregnant’ should not be pushed as true.

Given so many women experience pregnancy at some point, and that women are frequently the ones seeking trainers and group fitness experiences, it’s really quite ludicrous that so little emphasis is placed on ensuring those in the fitness industry are not only capable, but confident in delivering prenatal and postnatal exercise information.

Trainers may not be aware of their knowledge gaps

To be fair, many PT schools and online articles give blanket generalised statements (such as don’t overheat, don’t push too hard, avoid spending too much time on your back especially in later pregnancy etc.) and trainers take it at face value that they know everything they need to because you don’t know what you don’t know. I was one of them.

However, it wasn’t until I took my prenatal and postnatal yoga teacher’s certificates and experienced pregnancy myself that I realised how little we were actually taught at PT school.

I now believe that a woman’s body goes through so many physiological changes during this time period that anyone in the fitness industry working with pre/postnatal women really does need to do a specific course, or at the very least a general course with a decent module places specific emphasis on prenatal and postnatal women’s training. After all, every woman who has had a baby can have postnatal issues affect them in exercise.

Conditions that are going unchecked

One key example is diastasis recti – the separation of the abdominal muscles due to growing baby – is so common in pregnancy and can cause lower back problems further down the track if not treated properly. In fact doing abdominal crunches too early postpartum or doing certain exercises during pregnancy can make the problem worse, however many women aren’t assessed for this issue (and it’s sometimes not caught until a physio has to assess a back injury years later).

Here I should be clear: Every woman who has had a baby – especially recently – should be checked for this before resuming exercise activities. Whether it’s by a doctor, personal trainer, physiotherapist, fitness instructor, midwife, or some other specialist, this condition needs to be assessed so it can be caught early and treated accordingly.

Some women can have prolapses 10 or more years down the track if the pelvic floor muscles haven’t been rehabbed adequately and repeated deep squats and weight bearing exercises can contribute to this. As personal trainers and fitness instructors are often the first professionals women see postnatally when they resume their exercise routines,

The takeaway point: If you’re pregnant or have previously had a baby and are seeing a fitness professional, I urge you to check that they have had adequate training in pre/postnatal exercise!

Image / NZ Real Health

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