#PTonICE Daily Show – Monday, September 25th, 2023 – Is it ethical to restrict resistance training during pregnancy?

In today’s episode of the PT on ICE Daily Show, #ICEPelvic division leader Christina Prevett Addresses the fear of exercising during pregnancy and how it can hinder the care provided to pregnant individuals. Christina shares that she has received messages from pregnant individuals expressing their concerns and uncertainties about exercising while pregnant. The fear of exercise causing harm is often the primary concern that arises when someone discovers they are pregnant.

Christina emphasizes that this fear is not supported by scientific literature and believes that removing this barrier can lead to a significant shift in the way pregnant individuals are cared for. She argues that the medical system has contributed to this fear and stress the importance of reframing the conversation around exercise during pregnancy. Instead of focusing on the potential harm, Christina suggests highlighting the health-promoting aspects of exercise and removing any obstacles that may prevent pregnant individuals from engaging in physical activity.

Christina also points out that society does not have a movement problem, but rather a lack of movement problem, which is often observed during pregnancy. She highlights that the fear of harm is one of the factors contributing to the decrease in exercise during pregnancy.

Overall, Christina emphasizes the need to address and alleviate the fear of exercise during pregnancy in order to improve the care provided to pregnant individuals. By reframing the conversation and focusing on the health benefits of exercise, pregnant individuals can be empowered to continue exercising during pregnancy and set up for success.

Take a listen to learn how to better serve this population of patients & athletes.

If you’re looking to learn more about our live pregnancy and postpartum physical therapy courses or our online physical therapy courses, check our entire list of continuing education courses for physical therapy including our physical therapy certifications by checking out our website. Don’t forget about all of our FREE eBooks, prebuilt workshops, free CEUs, and other physical therapy continuing education on our Resources tab.

Are you looking for more information on how to keep lifting weights while pregnant? Check out the ICE Pelvic bi-weekly newsletter!


00:00 INTRO

Hey everyone, Alan here. Before we get into today’s episode, I’d like to take a moment to introduce our show sponsor, Jane. If you don’t know about Jane, Jane is an all in one practice management software with features like online booking, scheduling, documentation, and a PCI compliant payment solution. The time that you spend with your patients and clients is very valuable and filling out forms during their appointment time can quickly take away from the time that you all have together. That’s why the team at Jane has designed online intake forms, that your patients can complete from the comfort of their own homes. And to help them remember to fill out their forms, Jane has your back with a friendly email reminder sent 24 hours before their appointment. This means they arrive ready to start their appointment and you can arrive ready to help. Jane’s online intake forms are fully customizable to ensure you’re collecting everything you need ahead of time, whether that’s getting a credit card on file, insurance billing details, or a signed consent form. You can build out your intake forms from scratch or use templates from Jane’s template library and customize it further to meet your practice needs. If you’re interested in learning more, head on over to jane.app.com. Use the code icePT1MO at sign up to receive a one month grace period on your new account. Thanks everyone. Enjoy today’s episode of the PT on Ice daily show.


Hello, everybody, and welcome to the PT on Ice Daily Show. My name is Christina Prevett. I am one of the faculty within our pelvic health division. If you did not see, we had an absolutely packed house in Arizona for our two-day live course, and we have a couple of live courses coming up through the end of the year. Importantly, we’re taking the move up to Canada and we are trying to see if we can take some of these courses up there. So I am going to be in Ontario this next weekend, the 31st first or 30th first. in Hamilton, Ontario, which is close to Toronto. And then in December, I’m going to be in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in the east side of the country. So if you are a Canadian who keeps saying, why aren’t we bringing these ice courses up to the north into Canada, we are trying to do that. So I hope that I will see some of you in our Canadian courses towards the end of this year and this weekend. Okay, so this is kind of a little bit of a punchy topic where, and I’ve been thinking about this a lot.


So to give context, so today we’re going to be talking about, is it ethical to put resistance training restrictions on women that are pregnant? Where this comes from, so we are in this space of exercise, and to this day, very commonly, there is a restriction that can sometimes be placed on people that are pregnant that tell you that you should not lift more than 25 to 30 pounds during your pregnancy. And if you have seen me in the geriatric division, We’ve done a lot of pushback against putting restrictions on the amount of absolute load that is on an individual because of these preconceived notions that individuals of a certain age are not capable. I’ve had conversations before where people think that the two divisions that I’m a part of, the geriatric and the pelvic health division, are very different, but they both have one key concept that are kind of overlapping with them. that is under dosage of an under prescription of exercise. And so my PhD in geriatrics looked at high load resistance training for at risk older adults. I have since shifted some of my research into the pelvic health space looking at high load resistance training during pregnancy And that is where this conversation came up. So the motivation behind this episode was a conversation that I had with Margie Davenport, who I’m doing some postdoctoral research with, where we were talking about a systematic review that we are working on with Jess Gingrich, who’s part of our pelvic team, on resistance training during pregnancy. And so part of the things that we are reporting on are things like what was the frequency, intensity, time, and type. exercise prescription principles for these randomized control trials or these exercise studies that were done in individuals who are pregnant. And I’ve talked about how understanding the context where these prescriptions come from, saying don’t lift more than 20 or 25 pounds, have come from the fact that we do not have research in this area over a certain prescription, hence some of the cross-sectional data that we’re doing, hence some of the follow-up studies that we are doing. So that’s where this came from. But the reframe that really came into my mind over the last little bit was when Margie said, is it ethical to put restrictions on pregnant people for lifting? And so let’s talk about that. So when it comes to these restrictions or when it comes to our recommendations, they come from the foundation of do no harm, right? no harm. We are trying to make sure that we are keeping our pregnant people safe and we are making our recommendations and they tend to be more conservative because this is a very protected time in a pregnant person’s life. And so because we don’t have any research in pregnant people, we say don’t do it. But when it comes to the research, where we have to go is looking outside of the research, blending it with what we know in our current patient population, and then take the wants and desires of the person that is in front of us. We know that strength is protective at every single point in our life. We know that being stronger makes you more resilient. We know that it prevents chronic disease. that it keeps you with higher amounts of quality of life for longer. It helps protect you and give you reserve if you are sick. There are so many reasons why strength is protective. And it has been shown across almost every single patient population at every age. It is shown that strength is protective. When we have our pregnant population, we use these restrictions because we don’t have anything above. But when we come down to the foundation of strength is protective, And we think about the lens of these restrictions, don’t lift more than 25 pounds. We have to ask the question, are we going by do no harm? Because it’s not that we have evidence that going above 25 pounds is harmful. It’s that we don’t have evidence at all. And so when we don’t have evidence at all, we have to take a look at other areas or other amounts of the lifespan of the woman. And we have to think about, are there any harms that we can think of that are specific to pregnant physiology? And then kind of blend these two things together.


And from a pregnant physiology perspective, the theoretical constructs that are driving some of these recommendations are things like the change to fetal heart rate and placental blood flow as a consequence of lifting heavy weight, and the shunting of blood away from the uterus that happens when we resistance train towards the working muscle. And we don’t have any evidence from our acute studies that have looked at hemodynamics in the cardiovascular response to resistance training at a variety of loads to show that there is any adverse event that happens to mom or baby hemodynamically that would insinuate that there is some type of harm to fetal inflows and outflows as a consequence of resistance training. When we look at high load resistance training across the lifespan, we also have to think of what happens if we start to make women afraid of resistance training. What happens when we say don’t lift more than 25 pounds or don’t lift this heavy weight because you’re going to prolapse or don’t lift this heavy weight because it’s going to cause incontinence. We don’t have to just think about this snapshot in time where we’re trying to maybe circumvent some leakage. We have to think what is the internal dialogue that starts to happen in that woman’s life that is going to impact her at 65. where we think that we shouldn’t be that resilient or we shouldn’t be doing that much resistance training, we shouldn’t put that muscle on us anymore because we are going to cause pelvic floor issues or we are going to harm our baby. What does that internal dialogue do to exercise selection in the postpartum period, in the midlife period, in the perimenopausal period, in the older adult period? Is me saying that you shouldn’t be resistance training going to impact what I’m working with older adults down the line? and this may seem like a bit of a stretch but when we don’t have evidence around fetal hemodynamics we don’t have any case reports that have shown that an individual who’s lifting heavy weight goes into a hypertensive emergency or that there’s any type of pre-eclampsia that happens acutely or that after going to the gym an individual has had a fetal death which would be a case report that would come out in the literature as a special kind of This is something that happened that we should keep our eyes on that’s how we start developing levels of evidence to start investigating different phenomena Because we don’t have any of those things This reframe I think can be super important of Not what is the what is the harm of resistance training? it’s how are we setting our moms back if they don’t resistance train during their pregnancies? And you know I’ve talked to moms who’ve been placed on activity restriction or bed rest and they say like I had a complication that caused me to have to be in bed and let me tell you being weaker going into that postpartum period was painful for me. It was a lot harder for me. It was not something that I would wish on anyone to have to feel so weak and vulnerable in a time where you already feel weak and vulnerable. So instead of saying what is the risk of us doing resistance training during pregnancy, It’s what is the risk if we decondition our moms to be and have them, are we setting them up for success in the postpartum period by purposefully deconditioning them? And you may think that that is a strong statement of purposely deconditioning, but when you are making a recommendation that they are not allowed to lift their toddler up or that it is somehow dangerous to do that, We don’t want to acknowledge that while we are removing a stimulus, that we are actually promoting deconditioning. We are promoting deconditioning of the musculoskeletal system. And when we look at return to exercise postpartum and we look at persistent issues in the postpartum period, for example, diastasis recti, we know that those with diastasis recti are weaker across their abdominal musculature than those that aren’t. We know that one of the biggest issues to returning to exercise is pelvic floor dysfunction, but it is also lower extremity musculoskeletal pain where our body has not had that type of stimulus or impact. It hasn’t remained as strong as it was before pregnancy. And now when we’re trying to return to activity. we’re having lower extremity pain.


Why do we have so much mom wrist and mom knee, which we now have evidence are not actually physiological changes that occur within a female’s body that are a consequence of the hormones of pregnancy. We see a weakness issue that comes into pregnancy, a certain amount of deconditioning that is expected as a consequence of pregnancy, but we do not promote, uh, blunting of some of that deconditioning by promoting resilience and resistance training. And so I feel like there is a paradigm shift that is happening, and it starts with reframing our questions. Instead of saying, what is the harm of resistance training? If we flip that and say, what is the risk of deconditioning a pregnant person? that changes the game. It changes the way that we frame exercise and what we consider to be bad. We don’t have evidence at any levels of intensity in any modality of fitness that high intensity resistance training or aerobic training is bad for a developing fetus. or for a pregnant person. And in fact, it is creating a cardiovascular training effect to strengthen the fetal cardiac system when individuals are participating in aerobic training. And so how do we set moms up for success? Instead of saying, what is the fear? of exercising because that’s the first … I literally had somebody message me yesterday saying, I’m four weeks pregnant and now I’m so scared. I have all these questions. I do all this strength training. I do all of this aerobic training and I don’t know what I’m allowed to do. We have created that system where you get a positive pregnancy test and the first thing that you question and the first thing that you start to be fearful of is, is the exercise that I am currently doing going to cause harm? Our medical system has created that, and we need to work tirelessly to remove it, and instead say, what are the health-promoting factors, including exercise, that I enjoy, that I want to do, that I want to continue in order for me to feel strong, for me to feel healthy, for me to feel happy, for me to have strong mental health and resiliency, and that is going to trickle into the health of my baby. If we take that reframe, if we say instead of what is the things that are going to cause harm, it’s how do we remove barriers to exercise, especially when we look at our society and we do not have a movement problem. We have a lack of movement problem. And dip in exercise occurs during pregnancy. And there is a lot of things that can contribute to that. But one of the things is fear that the exercise that they love to do, that they self-select to do is somehow harmful. And if we can remove that barrier, we are going to shift the way we take care of our pregnant people. And we are going to start to see our pregnant people be able to do all of these wonderful things without the fear that is unfounded in the literature of doing harm. All right, my rant for a Monday. I hope you all start to think about this. I have actually really been thinking about the do no harm piece of exercise and if it is founded and how to change the way that we frame exercise prescription. for our pregnant individuals. So I hope you found this helpful. If you have any thoughts around this, I would love to hear it. I’m definitely gonna be thinking about the way that I’m framing this up and seeing if there’s any challenges that I can think of in my mind that would counter some of these arguments. So I would love to have these conversations with you all. If you wanna see some of the research coming out on exercise and pregnancy, I encourage you to sign up for our pelvic newsletter. It goes out every two weeks. We just had a letter go out last week. where any new research that’s coming out, we try and stay on top of it. And this is where some of these podcasts come from. So if not, I hope to see you on the road. If you are Canadian, I hope to see you at one of our courses in Ontario or Nova Scotia. Otherwise, have a really wonderful beginning of your week, everyone, and we will talk to you all soon.

16:55 OUTRO

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