Chapter 14 therapeutic exercise in obstetrics
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Chapter 14 Therapeutic Exercise in Obstetrics. Why Therapeutic Exercise for Pregnant Women?. Primary conditions unrelated to pregnancy Disorders related to physiologic changes during pregnancy Physical and psychological benefits Preventative measures.

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Chapter 14 therapeutic exercise in obstetrics
Chapter 14Therapeutic Exercise in Obstetrics

Why therapeutic exercise for pregnant women
Why Therapeutic Exercise for Pregnant Women?

  • Primary conditions unrelated to pregnancy

  • Disorders related to physiologic changes during pregnancy

  • Physical and psychological benefits

  • Preventative measures

Physiologic changes related to pregnancy support element
Physiologic Changes Related to Pregnancy – Support Element

Endocrine system – Alterations in hormone levels, GI function, etc.

CV system – Changes in blood volume, hemoglobin levels, vasodilation.

Respiratory system – Increased mucus in respiratory tract, predisposition to coughing, sneezing if pelvic floor and associated muscles are weak.

Physiologic changes related to pregnancy base element
Physiologic Changes Related to PregnancyBase Element

Musculoskeletal symptoms should not be considered normal.

  • COG shifts forward and upward (lumbar lordosis, forward head posture, rounded shoulders, etc).

  • Changes in hormone – Joint laxity (increased foot pronation).

Therapeutic exercise intervention for wellness
Therapeutic Exercise Intervention for Wellness

Moderate aerobic exercise (carefully monitored and prescribed) is safe and beneficial for the mother and fetus.

Exercise intensity guidelines
Exercise Intensity Guidelines

  • In pregnancy, maternal resting HR is elevated over nonpregnant values by 15–20 bpm.

  • Mitral valve prolapse occurs more frequently during pregnancy and may be aggravated by heart rates above 140 bpm.

  • Therefore, reduce exercise intensity by 25% to 60–75% to be safe.

  • A maximum HR of 140 bpm for novice exercisers and 160 bpm for experienced exercisers.

Activities to avoid

Horseback riding

Snow and water skiing

Snow boarding

Ice skating


Bungee jumping

Heavy weight lifting

High-resistance activities

Activities to Avoid

Therapeutic exercise for common impairments
Therapeutic Exercise for Common Impairments

Balance of muscle length and

strength in key postural

muscles is important!

Adjunctive interventions
Adjunctive Interventions

Hot packs – Safe for back, neck,and extremities.

Ultrasound – Sites away from uterus.

Ice – Used on joint pain and inflammation.

NMES/TENS – Contraindicated (except for TENS during labor and delivery).

Impaired muscle performance
Impaired Muscle Performance

Abdominal Strength

Goal– Improve muscle balance, posture, support of uterus via pelvic floor, stabilization of trunk and pelvis via lumbopelvic core.

Exercise examples
Exercise Examples

  • Supine hip and knee flexion with hip abduction and lateral rotation.

  • Progressive heel slides.

  • External oblique exercises to counter anterior pelvic tilt in variety of positions.

  • Concentric and eccentric abdominal contractions in quadruped.

Pelvic floor strength
Pelvic Floor Strength

Importance cannot be overemphasized!

Attention to pelvic floor strength should occur early

in the pregnancy and continue throughout the duration

and into postpartum.

Impaired joint integrity and muscle length
Impaired Joint Integrity and Muscle Length

Joint Hypermobility

Greater degree of joint laxity throughout the body during pregnancy.

Abdominal muscle length
Abdominal Muscle Length

  • External/internal oblique, transversus abdominis, rectus abdominis – all lengthen.

  • Rectus muscles separate in midline, creating diastasis recti.

Corrective exercise
Corrective Exercise

  • Patient manually approximates recti muscles toward midline.

  • Performs a posterior pelvic tilt.

  • Slowly exhale while lifting head.

Pelvic floor muscle length
Pelvic Floor Muscle Length

If coccyx pain is related to pelvic floor tension myalgia, pelvic floor relaxation must be emphasized.

  • Place hand over anal cleft.

  • Place middle finger in cleft and other fingers on buttocks.

  • Pretend to “pass gas” while feeling for cleft bulging out against middle finger.

Impaired posture biomechanical element
Impaired PostureBiomechanical Element

Restore ideal alignment

  • Lordosis intervention - Frequent inner core activation in various positions.

  • Wall abdominal isometrics.

  • Kyphosis intervention – Facilitate strengthening to scapular upward rotators, thoracic erector spinae, stretch pectoral muscles.


Causes Include:

  • Biomechanical strain from increased body mass and dimension.

  • Postural changes such as lumbar lordosis creating joint stress.

  • Aggravation of preexisting conditions.

  • Muscle fatigue from overload, particularly pelvic floor.

    Pregnant Woman are particularly susceptible to:

  • Lumbar pain

  • Posterior pelvic pain

  • Nocturnal back pain

High risk antepartum
High Risk Antepartum

  • 20% of all pregnancies include bedrest prescription.

  • Woman who delay childbearing may expect a higher incidence of obstetric complications resulting in bedrest.

  • General strengthening, circulation exercises, and relaxation exercises are indicated to prevent secondary conditions as a result of bedrest.

Therapeutic exercise considerations
Therapeutic Exercise Considerations

  • Improve circulation

  • Promote relaxation

  • Avoid increased intra-abdominal pressure by minimizing abdominal contractions during exercise and ADLs.

  • Prevent decreased muscle tone and deconditioning.

  • Prevent neuromuscular discomfort.

Therapeutic exercise intervention for common impairments
Therapeutic Exercise Intervention for Common Impairments

Nerve Compressive Syndromes

Common during pregnancy due to:

  • Fluid retention

  • Edema

  • Soft tissue laxity

  • Exaggerated postural changes

Common nerve compression syndromes
Common Nerve Compression Syndromes

  • Intercostal neuralgia

  • Thoracic outlet syndrome

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome

  • Lateral femoral cutaneous nerve entrapment

  • Tarsal tunnel syndrome

  • Peroneal nerve compression

Intercostal neuralgia

Intercostal Neuralgia

Described as intermittent pain in the rib cage or chest from flaring of the rib cage.

Intervention includes spinal elongation with arms overhead in supine, sitting, or standing postions,

and trunk sidebending away from the pain.

Thoracic outlet syndrome
Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

  • Strengthening of upper back and scapular muscles.

  • Lengthening of pectoral muscles.

  • Support can be provided through good brassieres and manufactured supportive devices.

Carpal tunnel syndrome
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

  • Decrease hand flexion activities.

  • Night splints.

  • Finger mobility exercises.

  • Look at scapula position and correct scapula depression.

Lateral femoral cutaneous nerve entrapment
Lateral Femoral Cutaneous Nerve Entrapment

  • Exercises to balance hip muscles.

  • Lying on side to draw uterus away from compressed side.

  • Soft tissue mobilization techniques for IT band.

  • Strengthening for underused synergists to ITB (e.g., posterior gluteus medius).

Tarsal tunnel syndrome
Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome

  • Elevation of foot and ankle.

  • Active foot and ankle exercises to reduce edema and compression.

  • Evening posterior splint.

Peroneal nerve compression
Peroneal Nerve Compression

Discourage prolonged squatting during

exercise and delivery.

Other impairments
Other Impairments

  • Temporomandibular dysfunction

  • Patellofemoral dysfunction

  • Joint discomfort or dysfunction

  • Varicosis


  • Many physiologic changes that occur during pregnancy affect a woman’s ability and motivation to exercise.

  • Adherence to precautions, contraindications, guidelines, and a safe exercise program can be established for pregnant women.

  • Exercise during pregnancy has many benefits including prevention or assistance in treatment of impairments.

Summary cont
Summary (cont.)

  • Therapeutic exercise focuses on key postural muscles affected by changes during pregnancy.

  • High risk pregnancy may require bedrest.

  • Specific exercises may be performed and are beneficial for high-risk patients.

  • Therapeutic exercise is beneficial postpartum, even after cesarean section.