Being pregnant is an exciting time, and it’s also a time when you’ll experience significant changes in your body. As a physical therapist and a mom, I want to share some general tips that I found helpful and that I share with my pregnant patients.
As your pregnancy progresses and your belly grows, you will have an increase in the arch in your low back to compensate for any weakness that you may have in your abdominal muscles. This is accompanied by a loosening of ligaments that can happen due to hormonal changes in your body. Be mindful of how you are standing. It is very common to lock out your knees and hang forward through your back. Unlock your knees while standing. If your low back or pelvis starts to bother you, consider purchasing a maternity SI LOC belt.
As the baby gets bigger, your breathing may become more difficult. Practice 360 Breathing. This is a term for getting your lower ribs to expand out to the side and not up through your chest. When you inhale, your abdominal and pelvic floor muscles should relax. As you exhale, the pelvic floor and deep lower abdominal muscles should gently contract, causing your belly to draw in slightly. You should not feel that you are pushing down into your pelvis with breathing or lifting.
Be mindful of exhaling when lifting or lowering anything (for example, lifting an older child, groceries, or laundry). This will help protect your back and the rest of your body as your pregnancy progresses.
Learn the log roll technique to get in and out of bed. While sitting on the edge of the bed, slowly lower yourself onto one side while bending your knees and bring both feet onto the bed at the same time. Then, roll onto your back, keeping your knees bent and hips aligned with your shoulders. Exhale with the movement to help support your back. Reverse these movements to return to a sitting upright position. Try the log roll to change sides while sleeping at night. Maternity pillows can be very helpful for sleeping.
I want to start by saying it’s crucial to check with your OB/GYN or midwife to find out if there are any restrictions you should follow before continuing or starting an exercise routine while pregnant.
If you have clearance from your clinician and are having an uncomplicated pregnancy and exercised before becoming pregnant, you can continue exercising while pregnant. If you were not active before becoming pregnant, increasing your activity level can have many health benefits during pregnancy and postpartum recovery. You want to go slow and easy when starting exercise for the first time.
The intensity of your exercise will reduce as your pregnancy progresses. If something is causing pain, either change the intensity of the exercise or stop that exercise.
Typical exercise modifications as your pregnancy progresses include:
In preparation for childbirth, it’s helpful to practice breathing, specifically focusing on the inhale and relaxing those pelvic floor muscles, which is so helpful for labor. You can do this lying down, on your hands and knees, sitting on a yoga ball, or on a chair with a towel between your legs. Feel those muscles in your pelvic floor both contract and then relax with your breathing.
Want more specific advice or have joint or muscle pain during pregnancy? Talk to your OB/GYN or midwife about seeing an Atrius Health physical therapist who specializes in working with pregnant patients.
Do you have urinary leaking or vaginal pain? Talk to your OBGYN or midwife to discuss treatment options.