Guest post by Bill Boland and Anita Halton at BodyFix Method
You’re excited to feel your baby growing inside you. But you also feel the physical stress that extra belly weight is causing. Your body is constantly adapting and not always in good ways. You feel it in your back, your neck, and your legs. These aches and pains are the result of postural changes caused by the developing fetus. Along the way, your body’s natural alignment is being compromised.
Here are 4 potentially damaging postural changes to be alert to and a few simple exercises you can do to correct them and avoid pain.
1. Swayback (Hyper-lordosis)
This is excessive curvature of the low back spine. We all have a natural amount of lordosis or curve in our low back (lumbar) spines, but when this curve becomes exaggerated, or hyper-lordotic, we are at risk for lower back pain, disc herniations, or sciatica. Pregnancy exacerbates the natural lordosis or curve of your lumbar spine. The added weight of your baby in your belly is pulling your pelvis into a forward pelvic tilt; this puts the back into a position of hyper-lordosis.
In order to keep your spine in the most neutral curve possible, focus on these things alignment principles and try these exercises:
a. Butt Strength. A strong butt is critical to keeping your pelvis from going into more of a forward pelvic tilt. Muscles in front and in back need to balance each other and keep the pelvis level.
b. Thighs Too Strong. The big thigh muscles, known also as quadriceps, are the strongest muscles in the body and they will easily pull the pelvis into a forward tilt if they are too tight. The tendency is going to be for your quads to get tighter and tighter as your baby grows and as you gradually gain weight during pregnancy, so you need to stretch them!
c. Supple Hips. Hip flexors are muscles that bring the knee to your chest. The psoas is a deep hip flexor, the only muscle that connects your lumbar spine to your legs. It gets tight when your knees are turned out and you walk with your hip and thigh muscles instead of your leg and butt muscles. It’s easy to do when you’re pregnant. When the deep hip flexor, the psoas muscle, is tight, it will pull your pelvis into an increased forward tilt, making delivery more difficult. It is very important to stretch those deep hip flexors.
This Simple Lunge is safe to do all the way through your pregnancy.
2. Abdominal Separation
Abdominal separation (diastasis recti) is a separation between the left and right side of the muscle covering the front surface of the belly (rectus abdominis). Pregnancy puts so much extra pressure on the belly that sometimes the muscles in front can’t keep their shape, causing a separation of the abdominal muscles. You’re also more likely to have the problem if you’re over 35, or if you’re having a heavy baby, twins, triplets, or more.
This condition can occur if your abdominals are either too weak or too tight. What’s your best strategy? Avoid compression in the abdominal area (no crunches!) and keep your abdominals long, strong, and supple. Avoid planks, or sit-ups, swimming or any positions on all fours.
Do these exercises, instead:
a. Standing Overhead Arm Extension
b. Hero’s Pose (Virasana with block)
c. Backbend over Bolster
d. Abdominal Corseting: Imagine that you are wearing a corset and practice engaging your abdominals and holding them while breathing for 10 breaths. Then release. This will gently strengthen your deepest abdominal, your transverse abdominal.
3. Rounded Shoulders, Forward Head Posture & Shallow Breathing
Forward Head Posture is a postural condition that affects millions of North Americans and pregnancy only increases your chances of suffering from it. The added weight of your growing breasts can begin to create a tendency to round your shoulders and sink your breastbone. As your shoulders come forward, your head follows and you wind up slouched. There’s a lot of fatigue in pregnancy, but sitting in a slouched posture will only add to that when you diminish your ability to breathe. Oxygen is a primary source of energy. You need more energy now than ever, and you will need more energy after your baby is born for sure, so here are some exercises to help you stand and sit tall, breathe more easily, and relax.
These exercises will keep your chest open and your breath deep and powerful.
a. Standing Chest Opener
b. Standing Arm Circles
c. Seated Shoulder Blade Squeezes
4. Turned-out Feet and The Waddle
Because your belly is growing out, there is less room for the legs to find the ground straight ahead. Your legs and feet will have the tendency to point out or “evert”. This alignment habit will result in a gait pattern of the pregnancy waddle.
If you are accustomed to walking straight ahead, you will now somewhat roll side-to-side because your toes are no longer pointed forward. This alignment pattern will tighten the hip flexors and contribute to a sore low back. A waddle is also inefficient way of walking. It can be avoided.
Do these exercises daily:
a. Seated Knee Pillow Squeezes
b. Walking in Place