Preeclampsia is a serious condition affecting 2 – 5% of pregnancies. The incidence is even higher in certain high-risk patients. Most studies target the treatment part of the disease. There is little data on the prevention aspect except for the use of aspirin in high-risk patients. Diet and exercise can have substantial effects on maternal health and may prevent preeclampsia.
Studies on physical activity and exercise in pregnant patients have been done. Studies evaluated the role of rest compared to physical activity in pregnant patients. One trial enrolled 32 patients who were asked to rest at home for four hours daily in the left lateral position. The intervention was thought to increase the placental blood flow. The risk of preeclampsia was reduced but not gestational hypertension [Ref].
On the other hand, exercise has also been found to have beneficial effects and may prevent preeclampsia. However, aerobic exercise has not been proven to prevent preeclampsia.
Moreover, physical activity can also reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Regular exercise or brisk walk for almost 20-30 minutes daily can prevent hypertension. Stretching exercises with proper warm-up and cool-down periods are highly effective.
Regular exercise that is highly recommended for hypertension and pre-eclampsia are:
Abdominal strengthening exercises
Targeted stretches and exercises that can help prevent lower back pain and pelvic girdle pain
How To Perform Abdominal Strengthening Exercises:
- Lie on your back with the knees bent to 90 degrees and feet placed flat on the ground while keeping both hands on the anterior surface of your thighs.
- Now gently lift your shoulder and upper back off the ground just trying to touch your knees with fingers of both hands.
- Try to keep the head in midline while looking forward.
- Hold this position for 5secs.
- Go back to the initial position.
- Do 10 repetitions daily.
A patient can perform bridging while twisting her hips to right or left.
- Lie supine on the floor with knees bent and feet flat on the ground.
- Keep your arms on the body’s sides.
- Raise your whole back and pelvic floor off the ground so that only shoulders, arms, and feet remain on the ground
- Lower your trunk back on the ground after 10-20 seconds,
- Take rest for 10 secs and repeat again at least 10 times
Benefits Of Bridging:
Bridging is the most beneficial exercise targeting the major muscle groups. Helps to strengthen back muscle, abdominals, thus providing good posture and core stability. This exercise is highly effective in improving balance, relieving stress and muscle fatigue.
- Elevator exercises are quite helpful in strengthening pelvic floor muscles. The patient needs to imagine as if the elevator is going up, she contracts her pelvic floor muscles, in this way strength will improve, add more floors to the sequence of contraction.
- Then, ask the patients to relax muscles gradually as if the elevator were going down.
It is quite helpful to relieve muscle spasms and increase muscle flexibility.
- Lie straight on the floor.
- Try to abduct the hips i.e. hips moving apart, & gently pull the knees towards the side of your chest.
- Hold this position for as long as you can.
Pelvic Floor Strengthening:
- Pelvic floor strengthening exercises are performed to regain control and tone of muscles.
Pelvic Tilt Exercises:
- Begin in quadruped position i.e. bend on both hands and knees.
- Try to perform posterior pelvic tilt while keeping the back straight with an intention to keep lower abdominals tight. Hold this position, release, and perform anterior pelvic tilt in the same way.
Maintain hook-lying position, try to visualize the clock on your lower abdomen. Imagine as if umbilicus is 12 0’ clock and pubic symphysis is 6 0’ clock. Your legs can move slightly while performing this.
Now you have to do gentle movements back and forth between 12 0’ clock and 6 0’ clock, progressing to move same between 3 0’ clock (shifting weight to left hip) and 9 0’ clock (shifting weight to right hip).
In the end, move in a clockwise manner from 12-3, 3-6, 6-9 and then back to 12 0’ clock, then reverse.
Women can perform contract-relax techniques to strengthen the pelvic girdle. Pretend to hold urine flow for at least 3-5 seconds, and relax for the same period of time. Perform a minimum of 10 repetitions.
- Walking improves circulation & strengthens your leg muscles.
This exercise improves core stability, strengthen back muscles & tighten the loose abdominals or burn belly fat.
- Stand with your back against the wall and feet apart at the width of your shoulder.
- Now try to slide your back down the wall bending your knees and hips as comfortably as possible.
- Hold this half-sitting position for at least 10 secs.
- Get back to the starting position.
- Do 5 repetitions minimum.