Post by Megan McDonald, Certified Nurse Midwife
Pregnancy can be hard on the body. In order to compensate for the growing baby, a woman’s blood volume increases, her hormones shift and she must compensate for the extra weight she is carrying in her belly. Our bodies are pretty amazing, and they do a good job of compensating, but sometimes this can cause us to feel more tired, nauseated and sore. Although we consider these things “normal,” it does not mean that we should accept these things without question. Below, I’ve listed some tips that could make this time more comfortable and enjoyable.
Body mechanics is a term that describes how we use our bodies for daily activities. We tend to want to move with the least amount of effort whenever possible. This ability is great most of the time as it helps us to multitask. Without this ability, we would not be able to coordinate breathing, thinking, processing, using muscles, etc. The problem with this is that we often ignore important muscle groups that need to be used in order to conserve energy. If we don’t move muscles, they do not get stretched or strengthened. Over time, the muscles become weak and they are not much good to us. This can lead to injury too.
My challenge to you is to become aware of your movements.
During pregnancy, it is especially important to be aware of your movements. Your growing belly is already prone to putting strain your back and other ligaments that normally you would not be aware of. Poor body mechanics can lead to muscle strain and while most of the time this is not a harm to the pregnancy, it can make for an uncomfortable mommy.
One of the main complaints I hear from patients is round ligament pain. The round ligaments hold up the uterus in the front of the body. As the uterus grows quickly during pregnancy, the round ligaments also stretch quickly. Preventing injury is key. Slow position changes and paying attention to your movements can help keep you comfortable. For example, when you get out of bed in the morning, try rolling to your side, sitting up, putting your feet on the ground and then standing, rather than making this one swift movement. Good posture will also help by taking some of the weight off of the ligaments and putting it on muscles that are more capable of bearing the weight, if properly strengthened. This brings me to my next point.
I know I probably sound like your grandmother, but I’m sorry to say, she was right. For some reason, we like to slouch. Like I mentioned before, we don’t like to engage a lot of muscle groups so we hold ourselves up with the least amount of effort. Good posture helps engage the muscle groups throughout your torso. It might not be comfortable in the beginning but once the core is strengthened, it will help you hold up your growing belly without as much strain. As the pregnancy goes on, this practice might also help you to breathe with more ease. Good posture opens up the chest and gives your lungs more room to expand and baby more room to do her thing. Try sitting on the floor whenever possible or on a chair without a back. This will encourage you to sit up and use your core muscles as opposed to sitting on a fluffy chair or couch that does all of the work. You can also try sitting on an exercise/birthing ball. This will encourage good posture and help you as you train for your labor day!
Have you ever watched little kids that have recently learned to walk? Their ability to squat is amazing. Once again, this is an activity that we have replaced with a seemingly easier activity we call bending. Somewhere between 12 months and 12 years old, we seem to lose this important movement. I’m sure the majority of us have been told to lift with our legs and not with our backs, which of course requires squatting, so we know this is an important movement, but alas, we bend…and strain.
Squatting is especially beneficial in pregnancy as it stretches the muscle groups that facilitate delivery of the baby. Your pelvic floor muscles are about to be stretched more than they ever have before. These muscles were made to do this, but healthy muscles stretch easier. Think about a rubber band. A rubber band with good elasticity is going to go back to its original size and shape much easier than a rubber band that has lost its elasticity.
Join a prenatal yoga class
A yoga class is a great way to stretch and practice moving your body in healthy ways. These poses can also help to strengthen your muscles. Yoga is great for super athletes as well as beginners. Group classes are also good for people who need a little extra motivation and support. A structured class is also a good place to practice new movements in the correct way to avoid injury.
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