I don’t understand why more doctors don’t encourage women to do squats. Kegels get lots of attention and mention in blogs and baby books, but why not the good ol’ squat?
It is a natural movement done all over the world, and in fact it’s kind of weird that we in the U.S. use chairs for everything. Squats help with flexibility, strengthen your legs, feet, pelvic area, and lower core muscles (something going through a LOT of stress during pregnancy that needs support), and improve overall mobility, which is something we also tend to lose during pregnancy.
I followed the old advice of “consult your physician before starting any exercise routine,” and while I expected a reluctant approval of weight lifting, my midwife actively encouraged me to do light (to moderate) weight training, and to do squats in particular. He (yes I have a male midwife) has read studies that find squatting to be just as effective as Kegels for toning your muscles “down there” and preventing future leakage and other common concerns. He mentioned a doctor in Japan that encourages his patients to do 100 air or body-weight squats a day. The Japanese doctor encourages it so much, his office wall has a spot where his patients practice their squats, and the oil from their hands has slowly coated the walls over time to make them super-shiny.
The pregnancy books and other pregnant women often warn about how hard it is to bend over and reach stuff off the floor. It’s certainly not easy as time goes on, that’s for sure. But here’s an option: don’t bend over; squat! I have been able to maintain a high level of mobility thanks to weight training, and squatting in particular, rather than trying to bend down over my stomach to pick stuff up, put stuff away, whatever. I actually HATE bending over and have made my hubby in charge of loading and unloading the dishwasher because it is one of the few things in the house I have to bend over to use rather than squat.
I have not experienced any of the usual ailments that pregnant women complain about like back or hip pain, at least not until very recently. At 5 weeks before my due date, I have only now started to experience hip pain when sleeping in one position too long at night, and frankly it may because I have not been as diligent about my weight lifting. Since we just moved into our new house, I have been lifting boxes and moving light furniture rather than specifically lifting weights and squatting. I plan to get back into the gym next week, or at least start air squatting.
I know I’m not an expert; I’m not a physical therapist or coach, I’ve only been pregnant once, I haven’t actually even given birth yet and have no idea how it works for other women. But please take my recommendation under advisement. I have a lot of friends and coworkers who are pregnant right now or were until very recently, and I definitely see the ones with a history of strength training or just overall fitness having a better time of it than the less fit; older moms with a couple of kids have also told me how much easier their deliveries were when they were fit. Squatting (and strength training) is something you can definitely do throughout your entire pregnancy; it’s low impact, you can adjust the intensity to your needs that day, and it helps with delivery and recovery, as well as just making it through the pregnancy and not feeling like a giant lump. Just my two cents.