Healthy pregnancy and good posture
One of the most important contributions to a healthy pregnancy is good posture. Much of the back pain experienced throughout pregnancy is related to the strain on your back from the weight of your growing baby. However, proper posture and alignment can help to prevent and even relieve low back and neck pain and fatigue. Good posture can help you look and feel better and may prevent some of the discomforts that can occur later in pregnancy.
Your posture during pregnancy
There’s no denying that your body changes during pregnancy. One of the most dramatic changes is your posture. As the fetus grows and your body accommodates it, subtle changes in your postural alignment occur on a daily basis. Several things occur that work against maintaining correct alignment. For one, the weight of the baby causes your lower back to sway as your center of gravity moves forward.
Your center of gravity is defined as a hypothetical point within the body where your body mass is centered. As your abdomen grows, your center of gravity shifts forwards, and your posture must adjust to prevent yourself from falling over.
Your abdominal muscles become stretched as the baby grows. These muscles are less able to contract and keep your lower back in proper alignment. Hormone levels increase during pregnancy and cause joints and ligaments to loosen.
The weight of the abdomen is causing an increase in the curvature of the lumbar spine and a tilting forwards of the pelvis which can also cause the upper body to lean forward under the strain. The mid-back region (your thoracic spine) becomes increasingly rounded, the shoulders roll forwards and your chin and neck are pulled forwards. These changes can cause a variety of adverse effects such as reduction of lung capacity, ligament strain and compression of vertebral discs which may make you feel uncomfortable.
Changes to the spine and posture during pregnancy
The spine and posture go through three main changes during the nine months of pregnancy.
Initially in months 1-3 the tail bone moves backwards and the center of gravity moves backwards.
Then in months 3-6 the reverse happens with the tail bone tucking under and the center of gravity moving forward to balance out the rapidly growing bump.
Then finally in month 7 and onwards, the tail bone moves backwards and the center of gravity moves backwards again to allow the fetal head to engage in the pelvis and move the tailbone away from the birth canal.
All about the hormone Relaxin
During the last few weeks of pregnancy the body produces a hormone called Relaxin which allows collagen fibers to unwind and lengthen. Collagen provides the building blocks of tendons and muscles, thus these can get lax, sometimes causing lower back pain. Relaxin therefore helps the pelvis and its ligaments to become more flexible and stretchable to thus maximize the space in which the baby can develop. (Simeon Neil-Asher: A Self-Help Guide to Posture)
Good posture during pregnancy
If you combine all the abnormal forces now placed on your spine with the hormonal changes that cause all of your ligaments to lose their tension, it’s no surprise that low-back, mid-back, neck, pelvic and hip pain are common during pregnancy! So, how can you give your muscles and joints a helping hand in avoiding pain during this prenatal period?
When your body is in alignment and your posture is correct, you can imagine a straight line running from your ears to your shoulders, and to your hips and knees. Keeping your chin tucked in and raising your head and shoulders helps you stand tall. Tuck in or tilt your pelvis forward to keep your lower back from arching in a swayback position.
Good posture during pregnancy involves training your body to stand, walk, sit, and lie in positions where the least amount of strain is placed on your back. Although your growing belly may make you feel like you are going to “turn turtle” and topple over, there are several steps you can take to maintain good posture and proper body mechanics.
What is the correct way to stand during pregnancy?
Here are 8 great tips to the correct way to stand during pregnancy:
1. Hold your head up straight with your chin in. Do not tilt your head forward, backward, down or sideways.
2. Make sure your ear lobes are in line with the middle of your shoulders.
3. Keep your shoulder blades back and your chest forward.
4. Keep your knees straight, but not locked.
5. Stretch the top of your head toward the ceiling.
6. Pull your stomach in and up (as much as possible!). Do not tilt your pelvis forward or backward. Keep your buttocks tucked in.
7. Point your feet in the same direction, with your weight balanced evenly on both feet. The arches of your feet should be supported with low-heeled (but not flat) shoes to prevent stress on your back.
8. Avoid standing in the same position for a long time.
Once the baby arrives...
But don’t worry—you won’t stay curved forever! Once your baby arrives and as your body gradually resumes its pre-pregnancy state, you’ll gradually resume your pre-pregnancy stance as well.
Want to know more about good posture? Click to read our latest blogs: Eat your way to a healthier spine , 3 Exercises to Encourage good posture in kids and Is there such a thing as "normal" posture? Plus 5 tips to help you achieve it!
Do you suffer from back or neck pain book an appointment with Back into Shape today and start feeling better!
Miriam Lipshitz is the Back into Shape team IDD technician, clinical receptionist and blogger. She is a South African qualified and experienced teacher by profession with wide ranging experience in research and writing.