Short on time? Then the key things to know are:
- An antenatal physio check is usually recommended at around 20 weeks and 35 weeks into your pregnancy
- An antenatal check up will allow your body to help you keep moving through pregnancy, and prepare for birth
- Your physiotherapist will discuss a tailored exercise programme for you to follow
- This includes guidance on resolving any pelvic floor issues such as incontinence and leakage
- Being able to move and exercise during pregnancy can also lower stress, anxiety and risk of depression
In this article, you’ll find out about why exercise is recommended in pregnancy, and how a pelvic physio check up can allow you to keep healthy and moving.
What is antenatal physio?
Pregnancy is a huge change for our bodies. Your pelvis starts to change shape from 10 weeks onwards which has a big impact on areas such as your hips, back and pelvic area. Antenatal physio will help you to care for these areas and address any concerns.
All physiotherapists look at strength, posture, and the way you walk and move. An antenatal check up during pregnancy allows your pelvic health physiotherapist to assess your movement and discuss any pelvic floor issues.
Pelvic physiotherapists are specially trained in the pelvic floor muscles and pelvis, so they can teach you how to improve your pelvic floor. We know the pelvic floor is important in allowing you to give birth vaginally, preventing leaking, and in supporting the weight of your bump. Pelvic physiotherapists can also support you for Pelvic Girdle Pain (previously called Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction), pregnancy-related sciatica, hip pain and back pain.
If you do sports to a high level and require support, it is beneficial to ensure that your pelvic physiotherapist is also trained in sports rehabilitation.
How can antenatal physio help me?
Exercise is recommended for a healthy pregnancy. This is where a specialist physiotherapist or antenatal personal trainer can help you bridge the gap between not knowing where to start, and having an individualised, safe exercise programme to follow.
We know 1 in 10 women have depression and anxiety in pregnancy and after birth. Regular exercise in pregnancy can help reduce the risk of depression, and keeping moving can be good for your muscles, heart, lungs and the health of your baby.
It is recommended to aim for 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity every week. An example of moderate exercise could be walking, swimming or aqua-aerobics. Do not take part in exercise where you could ‘bump your bump’.
Regular exercise in pregnancy can help you to:
- Reduce high blood pressure
- Reduce the risk of diabetes (for those who have gestational diabetes, exercise may help you control it)
- Maintain a healthy weight during and after pregnancy
- Reduce the likelihood of varicose veins, swelling in ankles, feet and hands and back pain
- Improve fitness levels
- Improve mood, and reduce depression and anxiety
- Improve your sleep
- Lower the risk of pre-eclampsia, very low birth weight and caesarean birth
- Improve your body’s ability to cope by shortening the length of labour and improving the likelihood of a straightforward labour and recovery after the birth
- Improve general quality of life
Seeing a physiotherapist can allow you to strengthen and continue regular movement to keep your mind and body healthy and happy.
What happens at an antenatal check up?
Your pelvic physiotherapist will be a specialist in women’s health and the pelvic floor. This means they are able to:
- Support you with any pelvic floor issues including incontinence
- Give guidance on back pain, hip pain or pelvic pain
- Assess how you are moving and loading through your feet, knees, hips and pelvis
- Guide you on exercises to assist your recovery and personal goals
- Help your body prepare for giving birth
When should I have an antenatal appointment?
Depending on how much extra support you feel you need, you may find it helpful to check in with your physiotherapist at 20 weeks and again at 35 weeks. Some find that they require support earlier on in their pregnancy, from around 12 weeks.
If your discomfort is stopping you from exercising or moving, it is recommended to access support as soon as you can. Your midwife or GP are often a good first port of call to check all is well with you and your baby before speaking to the physiotherapist.
Get support with your pelvic health
If you are struggling with your antenatal journey, then please access healthcare support so you can get the right guidance.
If you find you are struggling with low mood due to your symptoms, our mental health counsellors can help you.
Department of Health and Social Care (2019). Physical activity guidelines. [online] GOV.UK. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/physical-activity-guidelines.
Sánchez-Polán, M., Franco, E., Silva-José, C., Gil-Ares, J., Pérez-Tejero, J., Barakat, R. and Refoyo, I. (2021). Exercise During Pregnancy and Prenatal Depression: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Frontiers in Physiology, 12. Vargas-Terrones, M., Barakat, R., Santacruz, B., Fernandez-Buhigas, I. and Mottola, M.F. (2018). Physical exercise programme during pregnancy decreases perinatal depression risk: a randomised controlled trial. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 53(6), pp.348–353.
Liz, Naytal Women's Health Physio
Liz is a POGP certified women’s health physio who specialises in supporting women with their postnatal recovery and offers pilates-based rehab.