Pregnancy and Posture
Aside from the obvious belly growth in pregnancy, many lesser-known changes occur within a woman’s body.
The average healthy Canadian woman will gain about 30 lbs during pregnancy, and most of this weight is in the abdominal region. Added weight puts extra stress on the back, hips, knees, ankles, and feet. As a result, postural changes occur as a way to compensate for the transformation.
Usually, women will notice this posture change in the second trimester. As the belly grows with it, the body’s centre of gravity will shift forward. For this reason, the spine and muscles must change positions to maintain stability. As a result, the lower back begins to develop a more pronounced curve (lordosis) and the shoulders shift backwards for counterbalance.
As a woman enters her third trimester, additional postural changes can occur. In this stage, a hormone called relaxin will increase. As the name implies, relaxin “relaxes” the muscles, joints, and ligaments in a woman’s body to allow the uterus to grow. It also prepares the pelvis to stretch for delivery. This loosening of the joint ligaments can also cause instability in the spine, and the woman may experience additional back and hip pain due to the shift.
To help prevent back and pelvic pain during pregnancy, there are two key things you can do;
Pay Attention To Your Posture
1. To keep the body aligned, try contracting your abdominal and buttock muscles as often as possible. This exercise will act as a natural corset around your spine and help stabilise the joints naturally. It will reduce strain on the stretched ligaments.
2. Try to avoid standing for extended periods of time. If you must stand, try resting one foot on a stool to help take pressure off your low back.
3. Pregnancy back belts can also be purchased and will help take strain off your lumbar spine.
4. Your shoulders will want to roll backwards, keep your chin tucked in so that it is in line with your shoulders.
5. Your centre of gravity will be shifted forward so avoid wearing high-heeled shoes that will push your weight even further forward.
6. Avoid crossing your legs as this will cause your pelvis to become more off balance.
7. Sleep on your side with a pillow between your legs. This position takes stress off your low back and will not decrease blood flow to the baby. You can also put a pillow under your belly to support the fetus and another behind your back.
When it comes to exercise, you need to find a healthy balance. You should be doing regular gentle exercise (3-4 times per week) like walking, swimming, biking, and yoga. Avoid intense cardio classes, heavyweight training or cross-fit type programs.
Being fit before you become pregnant will not reduce your risk of back or pelvic pain, however, maintaining fitness and exercising throughout the nine months will reduce your risk of this type of pain from occurring.
Although postural changes occur during pregnancy, there is no need to fear long-term changes; it is important to remember that you will return to a pre-pregnancy state after the baby is born.
If you are experiencing back pain during pregnancy, conservative care such as spinal manipulation and mobilisation from a chiropractor or other therapist can help.
Soft tissue therapy including massage, shiatsu and osteopathy and also acupuncture can help reduce pain and improve function.
Remember, if you experience pain during your pregnancy, you do not have to suffer. Ask your health care provider how they can help.