Most doctors encourage pregnant women (and all individuals!) to include exercise in their daily routine. Women diagnosed with placenta previa during pregnancy can often be discouraged from or nervous about exercising, due to risk of bleeding and early labor. This condition, which refers to an irregular placement of the placenta on the uterine wall, affects about 0.05% of first time moms, and about 1-2% of moms who have experienced it in previous pregnancies.
While every pregnancy is individual, cutting out exercise entirely isn’t always necessary for those experiencing placenta previa. Adjusted workouts during pregnancy can reduce complications and complaints, so it is important to talk to your doctors about which workouts are suitable for your pregnancy and your health.
A diagnosis of placenta previa traditionally comes in four grades. First grade placenta previa describes placental placement in the lower segment of the internal orifice of the uterus (the opening where baby would eventually come out during a vaginal birth). Second grade refers to a situation where the placenta reaches the orifice, while in third and fourth grade previa the placenta either partially or completely covers the uterine opening, respectively. Each grade also carries increasing risk of bleeding and premature labor– why many moms diagnosed with placenta previa are on low-activity or bed rest.
Depending on the grade and severity of placenta previa, there are a number of low intensity exercises that are suitable during the entire pregnancy. In many cases, a slow paced walking routine or elliptical machine can be safe and comfortable, as well as providing some cardiovascular activity, and helping mom maintain strength and muscle during pregnancy. Discuss a low intensity walking routine with your doctor, beginning as early in pregnancy as possible for about 30 minutes a day, as long as the pregnancy progresses normally.
Another option for women experiencing placenta previa is low impact yoga and Pilates. It is important to eliminate or modify stretches that involve deep squats or involve abdominal pressure. In all exercises that involve twisting, the twist motion should be performed at shoulder level, avoiding twisting the abdomen and pelvis. You may choose to include variations to poses and exercises with the support of foam blocks or chairs, to support the pelvic floor. The goal is to maintain muscle strength in the legs, arms, and back, and to reduce the risk of clotting by encouraging blood flow, which can become an issue when on bed rest. Simple stretches for the arms, ankle rotations, and even deep breathing exercises can be safe even for those with fourth degree placenta previa, and can reduce the aches and pains associated with bed rest.
Enjoying even a low-intensity exercise routine can benefit your physical health, your mood, and your baby’s health, as long as individually appropriate exercises are being performed. Don’t let the diagnosis of placenta previa scare you out of staying healthy. Talk to your doctor about your individual health before beginning any exercise routine. Please remember, never continue to exercise if you experience spotting or bleeding, cramping, abdominal pain or dizziness, and be sure to contact your doctor if these symptoms persist.
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