Aside from the obvious growing bump, your body will go through huge changes during pregnancy. These changes can often cause great discomfort throughout gestation and during the postpartum period. Discomfort including aches, pain and swelling can be caused from the major postural changes that can happen during pregnancy.
How to improve your posture during pregnancy
There are a collection of muscles in the body known as ‘tonic’ muscles. These muscles or stablisers are responsible for keeping us upright and balanced, and in a pregnant woman these tonic muscles will be working harder than usual to accommodate for the growing baby. As muscles tend to work in pairs, when these muscles tighten, they will be weakening others causing imbalances throughout the body.
During pregnancy (and postpartum) improving your mobility and posture can help to take the pressure off your legs, hips and lower back. Start with simply shifting your shoulders above your ribs (as per the image below) not only while you exercise but as you go about your daily routine. This can make a big difference to aches, pain and swelling. In today’s society we spend so much time leaning over phones, steering wheels, computers and prams that our muscles and stabilisers are put under extra pressure – something that is definitely not needed during pregnancy !
UPPER BODY ALIGNMENT
I commonly see pregnant and post natal women with hunched shoulders. This is due to the additional anterior weight of the baby and also heavier breasts and the long periods holding and nursing a baby. This forward slouched posture contributes to strain on the muscles behind and in-between the shoulder blades and causes the head to protrude; which also leads to tension headaches from restricted blood flow to the brain. Curved or hunched shoulders also contributes to abdominal separation or the dreaded post baby “mummy tummy” or postpartum “pooch”.
To combat this hunched over look, I aim to activate and strengthen around the thoracic spine or upper back muscles during and after pregnancy with exercises that involving pulling, such as TRX rows or weighted front raises and supported / standing push ups. Always remember to start each exercise with the correct upright posture, keeping shoulders over ribs and keep your shoulders away from your ears to ensure the upper back muscles engage correctly. Safe and effective exercise, regularly during pregnancy does help to improve circulation and pregnancy aches and pains. Here is a good place to start – grab my complimentary core training guide.
HIPS DURING PREGNANCY
The increasing size and weight of the baby, plus the hormone relaxin causing softening of ligaments, will cause an exaggerated forward pelvic tilt during pregnancy. This is often the cause of the lower back pain that many women suffer while pregnant. As previously mentioned, muscles tend to work in pairs so as the back muscles shorten and tighten, the abdominal muscles will start to lengthen and weaken in response, plus the hips open due to the relaxin hormone. This is the reason why the hips may start to move out of alignment during pregnancy. The alignment of the hips has a knock on effect throughout the rest of the body and so it is essential that this is addressed as early as possible, as it can contribute the uncomfortable condition of pelvic pain or pelvic instability. Learn how to manage and alleviate pelvic pain – video and tips here.
TRAIN YOUR CORE DURING PREGNANCY
Core strength is something women are often not sure of when it comes to pregnancy and obviously traditional exercises such as crunches and static plank holds are definitely not to be attempted. However, carefully constructed exercises involving mobility and stability can activate and strengthen the core very effectively. Find out more with a Certifed Pre and Post Natal Trainer or grab my freebie CORE GUIDE.
LOWER BODY ALIGNMENT DURING PREGNANCY
During pregnancy, the forward (anterior) hip/pelvic tilt will cause a weakening in the hips, glutes and even the muscles surrounding your shins. This then causes what is commonly known as ‘knocked knees’ where the hips and thighs inwardly rotate putting a lot of pressure on the knee and ankle joints. Watch your posture closely during exercises keeping your chest up, shoulders back and down, and the pelvis in a neutral position – this also means NO tucking of the tail bone or gripping of the glutes.
As you can see, even one small change in the body can have a huge effect on posture, so by addressing this early on, and working on creating the perfect balance throughout your pregnancy, pain and discomfort can be avoided.
It will also greatly help you to recover more effectively after your baby arrives so it is worth commencing a pregnancy exercise program now.