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Pregnancy and Agility

From a physiotherapy perspective...

It was thanks to baby Charlie arriving two weeks early that Bonny Quick was able to go to Crufts at all this year. But it was her persistence and hard work that enabled her win three of the five runs and the  British Open Small Championship with her dog Shelley. With so many of our top competitors being pregnant and giving birth recently, physiotherapist Nicky Grant thought it might be interesting to consider pregnancy and agility from a physiotherapy perspective. This has been adapted from her blog on WinAgility.

I had the honour of being close to Bonny throughout her pregnancy. I know it wasn't an easy ride for her. She had to focus on her ambition to compete at Crufts as a motivator to keep fit.

Now this is not my area of specialism and I bow to other physios who have far greater knowledge on this subject area, but I think I can run through the basics for a start that may be useful for folk  whether pregnant now or thinking about it for the future.

Changes in pregnancy
There are some key physiological things that happen to a woman's body when she is pregnant. Most obviously the tummy gets bigger and the centre of gravity changes. This increases the lordosis or curve of the lumbar spine. The increased curve will put more pressure on the joints of lower back and, therefore, may be a cause of low back pain.

Another cause of musculo-skeletal pain is due to joints becoming increasing lax due to hormonal changes. This can effect the joints around the pelvis and can cause a condition called symphysis pubis dysfunction. This condition can be really painful and can limit activity.

Seeing a physiotherapist can help. They can prescribe you exercises and help you with some pain relieving strategies. You might also want to consider a belt which can give the pelvis some compression and support which can be really useful.

Other joints can become lax as well so care needs to be taken during exercise to not put joints at risk or push them out of their normal range. For example, running a course or training on uneven ground may put stress on your ankles so considering the surface you train on and your footwear is important.

There are also haemodynamic changes that occur. The word haemodynamic relates to blood flow around the body. The heart rate and blood volume increase. Stroke volume - which means the amount of blood pumped out by the left side of the heart during one contraction - goes up while cardiac output - the amount of blood pumped around the body in one minute - also increases. Essentially all these complicated words mean that the heart needs to work harder to maintain both mum and baby. This is the reason that some static positions such as some yoga positions and lying on your back for periods of time are not encouraged as it may reduce blood pressure and reduce the amount of blood returning to the heart (1).

Because there is a greater requirement on the body, the lungs have to work much harder as well. Aerobic exercise, which is sustainable for a period of time and utilises oxygen throughout, is generally thought to be safe and encouraged to both maintain and improve fitness through pregnancy (3,4).

During anaerobic exercise when you get out of breath quickly, your body is not using oxygen and lactate will form in your muscles. The lungs may struggle to pay back the oxygen quickly enough so caution is suggested with anaerobic exercise (2) This may mean that running flat out around a course may be not be a good idea but utilising some distance handling or holding your contacts for a few extra seconds may help you out. Other types of exercise can include jogging, cycling, walking etc.

As a general rule exercising while pregnant is thought to benefit most women who are going through an uncomplicated pregnancy (5). Obviously if there are any medical complications, exercise advice should be given on an individual basis for each woman and by a fully qualified health care professional who specialises in obstetrics.

Key things to remember
Pregnancy is totally different for everyone who goes through it so listen to your body. Don't ignore any warning signs and look after your nutrition, hydration, sleep and self-care.

When pregnant, it is important to do the following:-

  • Drink before and after training or a competition to replenish lost fluid.
     

  • Take healthy and nutritious snacks out with you and ensure you eat before and after your runs or training.
     

  • Try not to compare yourself to other people. We are all different and our bodies will all react differently.

Pregnancy shouldn't stop your agility journey. It may take you on a slightly different path but the most important thing is to keep having fun and stay safe.

Sources

 

1. Clark SL, Cotton DB, Pivarnik JM, Lee W, Hankins GD, Benedetti TJ, et al. Position change and central hemodynamic profile during normal third-trimester pregnancy and post partum [published erratum appears in Am J Obstet Gynecol 1991;165:241]. Am J Obstet Gynecol 1991;164:8837.

2. Artal R, Wiswell R, Romem Y, Dorey F. Pulmonary responses to exercise in pregnancy. Am J Obstet Gynecol 1986;154:37883. [PubMed] ⇦

3. de Oliveria Melo AS, Silva JL, Tavares JS, Barros VO, Leite DF, Amorim MM. Effect of a physical exercise program during pregnancy on uteroplacental and fetal blood flow and fetal growth: a randomized controlled trial. Obstet Gynecol 2012;120:30210. [PubMed] [Obstetrics & Gynecology] ⇦

4. Price BB, Amini SB, Kappeler K. Exercise in pregnancy: effect on fitness and obstetric outcomes-a randomized trial. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2012;44:22639. [PubMed] [Full Text] ⇦

About the author...
Nicky Grant is a Chartered Physiotherapist & Veterinary Physiotherapist. She qualified from the University of the West of England in 2009 with a 1st Class Honors degree in Physiotherapy.  Starting her career in the NHS at the Bristol Royal Infirmary Teaching Hospital and Frenchay Hospital, she settled in Somerset specialising in musculoskeletal physiotherapy at Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton.

Growing up in a family of vets she always knew she wanted to work professionally with animals and in 2011 embarked on an MSc in Veterinary Physiotherapy in conjunction with her NHS work, gaining a Masters in Veterinary Physiotherapy with distinction.

Nicky now heads up a physiotherapy practice from Taunton in the south west of England. The practice treats canine, human and equine patients in a variety of locations. Nicky specialises in treating agility dogs and their handlers and has a special interest in optimizing canine performance, in canine sports injuries and rehabilitation.

In 2015, Nicky accompanied the 2015 IFCS Great Britain agility team to the World Championships in Italy, offering comprehensive care to both dogs and handlers. She is currently be part of the KC Team GB coaching team, working as Team Physiotherapist (Special Projects) in preparation for the European Open and FCI Agility World Championships.

Phot of baby Charlie Linda Gore

First published 16 March 2018