Let’s face it, carting around a swollen pregnant belly when you’re pregnant is no fun for your muscles or bones. All that extra weight at the front can really do a number on your body when it comes to your spine, leading to the mother of all hunch backs.
Whilst it may be a challenge to remember to stand tall, good posture in pregnancy will help increase the room your baby has to grow inside you and promotes blood flow. However bad posture will restrict space and movement for your baby and may result in extra tightening of certain muscle groups causing posture to worsen. Not to mention that hunching will tend to make you look like a sack of potatoes and will literally be a pain in the neck, back and everywhere else!
Leading posture training expert and skeletal therapist Dell-Maree Day says abdominal muscles weaken during pregnancy as your uterus expands. “This alters your posture and puts strain on your back,” she says. “And the extra weight of the baby means your muscles are working overtime and the stress on your joints is increased.”
Former Pilates teacher Dell-Maree was seeing so many posture problems in her private practice that she was motivated to create a unique 10-week online program The Invisible Exercise which shows you how to correctly use all 639 muscles in your body by mastering 10 poses that will realign and tone your body.
Here she shares her postures and tips for expectant and new mums.
Best postures for pregnant mums
When you’re pregnant the tendency is to slump back into a chair which isn’t great for your spine. Instead, move your spine away from the back of the chair. Sit on the front half of the chair with your feet flat on the floor directly under your knees. Make sure there’s a fist-sized space between your knees and feet.
Look ahead and sit tall and relaxed, with your arms in a relaxed position as well. Your spine will stack itself up naturally, so the natural curves are reinstated. This results in a reduction in distortion and compression on your joints which will eliminate pain. The worst thing you can do is forcibly pull your shoulder blades back.
Standing up relaxed and tall stand with your feet 10cm apart. Try to look straight ahead and don’t be tempted to look down all the time at your phone – it will pull your neck forward resulting in a hunchback!
As women have a tendency to hunch forward in pregnancy, standing correctly will lift your upper and lower back reducing strain on your spine.
Nestle the base of your spine into the base of the car seat. In order to reach the steering wheel that will mean having to bring seat slightly forward. Then sit up really tall and relaxed.
Your lumber curve at the base of your spine will no longer be in a c shape and will stack up naturally, helping to keep your lower back strong during pregnancy.
A comfortable lying position to use during pregnancy when you want to rest, especially in the third trimester, is to roll onto your side and draw your knees up towards your baby belly. This helps to calm your body and regulate your blood pressure, not to mention taking the strain off your spine.
Best postures for new mums
Strengthening your abs whilst breastfeeding
Sitting in comfortable chair, position the base of spine into the base of chair sitting up tall and relaxed. Don’t hunch over your baby as you feed them. Let your body breathe in through the nose and breathe out through your lips thinking this thought: ‘sternum straight through towards your spine.’ This thought will send a message to your body to stack up correctly. As you practice this technique your abs will lengthen and strengthen.
Picking up your child
If your child is on the floor bend over, pick them up keeping your spine lengthened and make sure it’s not in a curved position. Maintain the lengthened position as you straighten up. Hold your baby in the centre of your chest, don’t hold them to one side of your hips as then your pelvis will rotate. Similarly, when your baby is in a cot, bend over, flex gently at your hips and keep your spine lengthened.
Walking with a pram
For a start I would recommend investigating prams where the child is positioned higher up rather than prams where the child is positioned very low down. The higher up the pram carriage, the less you will have to lean forward to check on your child.
When you are walking with the pram, take the longest stride you can whilst standing up as straight and tall as you can looking ahead, not down a nd hunched over. Doing this will lengthen your hamstrings. Not only will this give your glutes a good work out, it will also reduce pressure on your back.
Stretching for an adrenaline burst
If your energy is flagging, stand up tall, raise your arms above your head with palms facing up to the ceiling. This will open up your chest, giving you an upper back stretch and will also give the muscles around your pelvis a chance to strengthen. It’s great for getting the blood pumping around the body. Practice your breathing thought, and it should help to clear your foggy brain!
For more on Dell-Maree’s posture training program visit www.theinvisibleexercise.com.au