Women’s bodies undergo drastic changes during child bearing, including hormonal changes and increase in body weight. The latter, while completely natural, can cause unforeseen problems if not managed well. The excessive weight can place excruciating pressure on the body’s joints.
This is particularly true for the knees. As we grow, our knees undergo wear and tear, a process that is escalated by excess body weight. Additionally, women also lose more bone density than men and are more susceptible to osteoporosis, which causes stiffness, pain and locking of knee joints.
As knees are mobile joints, which help in basic movements like walking, running and bending, it is essential that one keeps a check on one’s body weight. Hence, while it is perfectly healthy and even required for women to gain weight steadily throughout pregnancy, it should not be excessive. More weight also implies more pressure on knees, which leads to them experiencing more wear and tear. Simultaneously, women must also improve the strength of their knees to cope with the pressure.
How to fight the pain and gain Apart from the strain on the knees, excess weight gain during pregnancy can also cause many other problems. These can include increased propensity to high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, inaccurate ultrasound results and a possibility of premature labour.
To ensure that these complications do not occur during and after pregnancy, here a few things women need to do:
Regular walking: Walking is one of the most effective exercises for a healthy life. Thirty minutes of walking enables bone-building and helps pregnant woman keep their weight under check while also keeping their knee joints active.
Balanced diet: It is important to be in touch with your nutritionist to keep yourself and your baby healthy. Apart from weight gain, another major reason for joint pain and weakening of the bones is the deficiency of calcium and vitamin D in the body. Therefore, a balanced diet would help increase the amount of these nutrients in the body. Foods high in vitamin D include fish oils, mushrooms, cheese and egg yolk. Exposure to sunlight is essential for mothers. Taking calcium supplements, along with calcium-rich food like milk, yoghurt, dark green leafy vegetables, tofu, okra, broccoli and almonds is a must.
Yoga: Pre-natal yoga can not only help prepare your body for labour but also keep your weight under check.
Expecting mothers can also benefit a lot through meditation as well, as it helps reduce stress.
Running: Once you have delivered the baby, it is advisable to get back in shape as soon as possible. Running is one of the best forms of exercise for the body and the knees. Not only does it help manage weight, but it also keeps the heart in a good condition. The fact that it strengthens bones and muscles helps avoid any knee problems. That said, avoid running on the treadmill as it can increase the chance of knee injuries.
Dancing and aerobics: For new mothers, dancing and aerobics at home are not only fun activities, but these will also serve as a healthy exercise for weight loss and bone-strengthening.
As these are easy things that one can do at home, keeping knee pain and
excessive weight at bay is all the more simple.
(The author is senior consultant, orthopaedic & joint replacement surgeon,
Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, New Delhi)