A woman's body undergoes many transformations during the nine months of pregnancy. While you may be familiar with certain changes due to your own experience such as backaches and swollen lower limbs, you may be surprised to find out that these changes and discomfort are caused by primarily bad posture, a weak core and generally weak posterior chain muscles (i.e. the group of muscles at the entire back of your body which includes your back muscles, glutes and hamstrings etc), which can be managed and eradicated with the help of proper training.
Let’s examine the pregnant woman on the left in the infographic above.
The size of your breast will increase during pregnancy in preparation of breast feeding through development of new tissue and mammary glands. Without proper support from an activated upright and strong back muscles, the increasing weight of the enlarged breasts will draw the shoulders forward. This results in a hunch back and rounded shoulders that pulls your neck muscles to the front, hence straining your neck and shoulders. It is no wonder that most expectant mothers report some form of neck and shoulder pain.
Due to the compression of the chest cavity, the breathing capacity and circulation is diminished, causing shallow breathing patterns, shortness of breath and dizziness1. In addition there is also the unpleasant aesthetic aspect of fat accumulating at the back of your arms and upper back as a result of bad posture. This is even more so due to our lifestyle of rounding over to the front to look at our electronic device.
As your belly expands to accommodate your growing baby, you will find that your lower back will gradually start to curve and arch more to balance your shifting centre of gravity. A hyper curved lower back decompress and put forth excessive pressure on the lumbar arch of your spine, compressing the nerves around it and hence causing lower back pain. A strong core which provides support from the front and from within will help relieve these symptoms and if intervened early, can be prevented altogether.
You may also notice that the increasing weight of your baby is pushing down against your pubic bone which may cause pain usually in the late third trimester. This is known as pubic symphysis pain. In preparation of childbirth, your body will release a group of hormones called relaxin to loosen pelvic joint and ligaments to make space for delivery. On this note, you should be careful to not be overzealous in stretching and opening up your pelvic cavity. Unlike muscles which are made up of elastic fibres, an overstretched ligament is irreversible and may bring upon a long and difficult recovery and rehabilitation process thereafter.
“An overstretched ligament is irreversible and may bring upon a long and difficult recovery.”
Some women say their feet grow an entire shoe size during pregnancy. Swelling in the feet and ankles may occur because the body is producing extra fluids that might pool in these two locations. This condition may worsen if an expectant mother has hyper extended knees, which will further restrict blood circulation to the lower limbs. Due to the build up of weight from the upper body, some women may even experience a collapsed foot arch which will affect the alignment of the lower body.
As disheartening as these issues may sound, you can take charge by making simple changes today. Having correct posture and alignment both during pregnancy and beyond baby is critical for optimal core function plus it can help diminish body aches and pains. Below is a list of non- exhaustive examples of good posture and common bad posture. You can work towards improving your posture with these tips:
- Think about lengthening your spine upwards and tall through the top of your head at all times
- Gently hug your baby in with your belly if you are pregnant or zip up your belly if you are not
- Avoid locking your knees – keep them soft allowing for your legs and core muscles to activate
- Avoid tilting your pelvic forward by arching your lower back too much, neutral pelvic positioning activates your core
- Use your core by establishing the core and breath connection to hold up your body when you sit, stand, and lifting and carrying objects
- Avoid tucking your butt under
- Focus on your breath as you notice how much fuller and deeper of a breath you can take when in good posture
The correct breathing techniques combined with exercises that establish the core and deep breath connection is the first and vital step in all Pilates training, especially so for core strengthening, and for recovery or slimming purposes.
"Do not attempt to take matters in your own hands by attempting exercises from unverified sources".
Other exercises that aim to strengthen your glutes such as squats, clams and all forms of exercise that strengthen your core and posterior chain muscles, are extremely beneficial to counter any pregnancy discomfort. However, it should be performed under the supervision of a pre and post-natal specialist. Working with expectant mothers require proper in-depth knowledge to meet the ever-changing demands of a pregnant body in every trimester and one should not attempt to take matters in their own hands by attempting exercises from unverified sources.
In the next issue, we will examine where and what is your core and getting to know your pelvic floor muscle. These group of muscles play a pivotal role in your biological functions and post-natal recovery journey.
About the Author
Yin Yin is a certified pre & post-natal Pilates instructor at Bhumi Lifestyle Yoga & Pilates. Bhumi Lifestyle Yoga & Pilates has trained and helped numerous expectant mothers and new mothers in postnatal recovery & rehabilitation. For more information, please contact them at 017-579 7966
 Dizziness may also be caused by anaemia