What Exercises Can I Do With an Incompetent Cervix?

July 1st, 2010

I recently received an-e-mail from a mama who had just gone on bedrest with an incompetent cervix at 30 weeks.”What exercises, if any, can I do with an incompetent cervix,” she asked?

An incompetet cervix is one of the more common reasons pregnant mamas are prescribed bed rest. While the rates of incompetent cervix are thought to be low, no one is exactly sure how many women are affected by incompetent cervices during pregnancy. An incompetent cervix can manifest in one of three ways:

  • Opening of the cervical os more than 2.5 cm during the second trimester
  • Thinning and shortening of the cervix (effacing)  in the second trimester or early third trimester
  • Thinning or opening (funneling) of the cervical opening closest to the baby

The treatment for incompetent cervix is cerclage (surgically placing a stitch through the cerix to hold it closed), bed rest, or a combination of the two.

Being prescribed bed rest puts a mama at risk for blood clots in the legs, muscle atophy and overall loss of strength and cardiovascular conditioning. Most women who are prescribed bed rest should also be prescribed-or at least advised about-exercises that they can do to maintain muscle strentgth and tone as well as to reduce the physical effects if prolonged inactivity. However, it has been my experience that many women prescribed bed rest receive little or no instruction on what they can do to exercise their bodies while on bed rest. This is due in part because many obstetricians don’t know what types of exercises are safe for women on prescribed bed rest. A lucky few mamas will have a consultation or two with physical therapists. But the vast majority of mamas who go on prescribed bed rest will receive no exercise instruction. For this reason I produced Bedrest Fitness when I was pregnant during my second pregnancy.Bedrest Fitness is a set of modified prenatal exercises designed specifically for pregnant women on prescribed bed rest.

A mama with an incompetent cervix should avoid any movements or exercises that put pressure on the cervix and many women will be instructed to remain recumbant in bed or on the sofa. But if you think about it, that leaves your arms and legs free to move. Mamas on bed rest with an incompetent cervix should perform a variety of arm and leg exercises daily to maintain steady bloodflow and adequate circulation back to the heart-especially from the legs. Leg exercises should include:

  • Leg Ab/Adduction exercises
  • Passive double knee raises (provided Mama can do them using an exercise band or towel to draw her knees up and not engage her abdominal muscles. If mama feels any pressure in her lower abdomen, these should be avoided!)
  • Point/flex of toes to exercise the calf muscles
  • Ankle circles

Upper body exercises should include (using a towel or exercise band):

  • Modified flies
  • Shoulder extensions with arms extended forward and to the sides
  • Upright rows
  • Bicep curls
  • Triceps extensions (if allowed to sit up)

On Bedrest Fitness I included Cat/Cow stretches. Women with incompetent cervices can actually do these stretches, but in my experience they often are unable to gauge how much pressure they are putting on their cervices. So unless a physical therapist or fitness professional is present, I don’t recommend that mamas with incompetent cervices perform these exercises.The same is true of the modified crunches.

Bed rest can have a profoundly negative (albeit temporary) effect on a mama’s overall physical condition. Depending on how long she was on bed rest prior to delivery and the restrictions she’d been given, a new mama can find herself unable to hold herself upright or to even hold her newborn. But if she engages in a few very simple but targeted exercises while on bed rest, mama will find that she will be less deconditioned after delivery and recover more quickly.

If you or someone you know has been prescribed bed rest during pregnancy, order a copy of Bedrest Fitness. Even if Mama can’t do all of the exercises, she will preserve muscle strength and tone in the areas she does exercise. Mama can also download a free set of lower body exercises, stretches and Kegels when she signs up for the Mamas on Bedrest e-mail list.

53 responses to “What Exercises Can I Do With an Incompetent Cervix?”

  1. Darline says:

    Hi Miranda,
    Shortened cervix can be treated in several ways, and it does depend on the degree of shortening. If you are going to be treated with progesterone injections, they are often started as early as 16 weeks. And yes, cerclages (stitches) are typically placed before 20 weeks, usually as soon as cervical shortening is noted.

    If these providers don’t seem to be as responsive as you would like, I would suggest getting another opinion, preferably from a Maternal Fetal Medicine specialist. I don’t know where you are writing from and I don’t know the provider pool in your area, but that would be my suggestion.

    I hope that you find a provider you can speak with about your concerns and get satisfactory help, treatment and support as necessary.

  2. Hope Black says:

    The link to the book doesn’t work

  3. Darline says:

    The Bedrest Fitness video is no longer available on Amazon.com as it is no longer in production. I have a limited number on hand if you would like one. To purchase email info@mamasonbedrest.com. Thank you.

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