Restore Core Stability after Pregnancy
Restoring your core stability after pregnancy is a key factor in post partum rehab. Pregnancy may be an age old tradition, walked by many but this doesn’t mean it’s a walk in the park. Hormonal shifts and a growing baby cause numerous changes to a woman’s body during pregnancy. Core stability is often compromised by postural alignment during pregnancy and by the method of birthing, be it vaginal or c – section.
Trying to maintain a good posture is helpful to minimising discomfort and reducing stress on the soft tissue structures of the body.
Yet, however ‘on it’ you are with trying to keep up with your ever changing body, the pregnancy state will have some big effects on your core foundations of stability.
Common changes affecting core stability during pregnancy
- Posture: A growing and expanding belly will create a dominance of weight on the front of your body. There’s no way round that! With a gravitiational pull forwards, the pelvis tips forwards, pulling the lower spine into a greater lordosis (curve) and the shoulders into a more rounded position. With the shoulders in a different setup, the upper spine increases its curve (kyphosis), which, inturn, affects the cervical spine, creating an imbalance in the alignment of the head and neck. When the bony structures of the skeleton are held in a non optimal alignment, they can create force on nerves and tissues, leading to pain. A common pregnancy symptom is sciatica which can be caused by the position of the pregnancy pelvis and lower spine, or by the baby itself, pressing onto the nerve.
- Core Compromise: As the abdominal wall expands, the abdominal muscles lengthen and weaken. The forward tilting pelvis tips the attachment point of the rectus abdominis (6 pack muscles) away from its insertion point at the bottom of the breast bone, further lengthening the structure and making it difficult to contract the muscles. As the baby grows, its increasing weight loads down on the pelvic floor muscles causing them to also weaken. The pelvic ligaments that connect neighbouring bones become stretched and cause instability in the pelvis, which the weakened muscles struggle to support. All of the weakness often leads to an overworked backline and consequent pain in the lower back.
- Physiological Changes: as the internal organs have less room to move, pregnancy can often cause changes physiologically. With less flow of movement through the intestines, constipation can often occur. As the baby leans into the pelvic bowl organs, you may find that you are needing to pee more frequently. The growing baby also pushes into the upper organs, limiting their space to function optimally. One such structure is the diaphragm, which gets pushed up into the ribcage. Many women find it hard to get a nice deep breath in the 3rd trimester – this is because the diaphragm is not able to move downwards to help the lungs fill with air. Instead, many move to an upper chest breathing mechanic in the 3rd trimester. Because the diaphragm has the esophagus running through it, its squashed location can cause acid reflux issues and problems with indigestion as food cannot flow downwards effectively. It is really important to reinstate a good diaphragmatic breath after birth.
Helping your body through the changes
Lots of conservative solutions can be done to help the changes occuring in the pregnancy transition.
Gentle movement, especially around the pelvic area by way of gentle pelvic tilts, can bring much needed relief and comfort to an overburdened area.
In my experience, static stretching is not generally helpful. This is because the soft tissues are already in a lengthened position. Ligaments under strain will definitely not thank you for stretching them further! Instead, dynamic movement through a continuum of range of motion is much more beneficial than a static hold of a stretch.
Practicing breathwork early on in pregnancy and continuing through the duration and beyond helps to establish as much flexibility in the diaphragm as possible before its inevitable compromise. Diaphragmatic breathing also helps the deep abdominal muscles and pelvic floor muscles to activate, so is a win win for strengthening the whole core foundation.
Activating the muscles of the backline with glute activations and gentle back extensions also help to strengthen the backline for the extra load it is helping to support.
Comfortable, neutral rise footwear will also help to maintain a good posture. Pregnancy is not a time for heels which further push the pelvic tilt forwards, whilst slip on shoes like flip flops cause compensation patterns to help keep the shoes on your feet. Your footwear should always have a strap or support across the toes and around the back of the heel to support the foot and hence all the structures above.
An awareness of shoulder position, neck position and excessive forward tilting pelvis is a great first step to trying to help engage muscles to a more neutral alignment. Often the new postures become habit and we ‘forget’ that we can activate some muscles lightly to hold the bones in a better position, if not all the time, at least with some daily exercises to encourage activation.
Post Natal Recovery
Many women rush back to sports and workouts after pregnancy which they have taken part in before pregnancy.
It is really important to realise that your body has gone through a lot of change in 9 months. Attempting to strengthen yourself around an unstable structure and compromised core will generally lead to injury, compensation patterns and pain.
Rebuilding your core connections and postural alignment are key foundations to lifelong strength post birth.
Our Post Natal Recovery Kit helps you to rebuild these important foundations for optimal movement and strength.
If you need help, please reach out for a chat.
We work Live and Online, so location and time needn’t be a factor.
Nat is a Pain and movement rehab therapist, specialising in abdominal surgery rehab, pelvic floor and Women’s Health. She helps women through all stages of life to make their journey through the shifts and transitions of womanhood, with ease and grace.
Nat uses a multi-disciplinary approach to provide a ‘whole-istic’ approach to helping you understand and move more easily in your body, emotionally and physically. She uses a combination of manual bodywork, neuromuscular repatterning, movement, nervous system regulation and energy work to help you move beyond pain and emotional blocks and back to living life with joy and zest.
Nat helps with:
- Postnatal recovery
- Diastasis Recti recovery
- C section recovery
- Pelvic Floor Function
- Perimenopause and Menopause Lifestyle Coaching
- Nervous system regulation
- Hysterectomy Recovery
- Post-op rehab
- Scar care
- Functional Movement repatterning
- Relieving pain
- Reintroducing Stability to the system physically and emotionally