What to Do about Your Not-So-Great Pregnancy Posture
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Your belly looks really freaking cute, but is it throwing off your stance? Find out—so you can feel at least a little more comfortable on the daily.
- Changes during pregnancy can cause you to settle into positions that invite pain, especially around your lower back.
- A wide stance, curved back and rolled shoulders are all signs that you may need to adjust your go-to positioning.
- Strengthening your core and upper body can help prevent problematic postures from taking over.
Read on to learn more ...
*This content is designed to inform and inspire, but it is not meant to diagnose, treat or give specific medical advice. Always check with your health care provider about how to stay healthy and safe before, during and after pregnancy.
You know those cheesy stock photos of pregnant people rubbing their lower backs, with their bellies sticking out, backs arched and knees locked out? During early pregnancy, you may have thought, "How dramatic!" But then, as you got more pregnant, you may have shifted to, "I feel seen".
"Posture changes in pregnancy are super common, thanks in part to your growing belly altering your centre of gravity and natural weight gain affecting how you move. Trouble is, spending too much time in a less-than-ideal posture during your pregnancy—like that stock-image pose, to start—can lead to annoying issues, with the biggest being unnecessary strain on your lower back", says Brianna Battles, a certified strength and conditioning specialist in Eagle, Idaho, and the founder of Pregnancy & Postpartum Athleticism. This can invite more aches and pains now and possible movement problems down the line.
"All of our postural muscles are challenged during pregnancy", says Laurel Proulx, DPT, PhD, a pelvic-health physiotherapist in Colorado Springs and the founder of FEM Physical Therapy. (BTW, postural muscles are those tasked with keeping you upright, such as your core, upper back and shoulders.) Other muscles may then need to compensate for these added stresses. This is when you may notice some of the following changes in your posture, all of which can trigger discomfort, according to Proulx:
- A wide stance while standing (feet far apart, toes pointing out). This limits your hips' and upper body's ability to move properly. It may also affect your normal arm swing as you walk.
- An arched back due to fatigued core muscles that struggle to stack your ribs over your pelvis. Hello, lower back pain.
- A tucked tail bone, basically the inverse of the arched back, which happens when you try to overcompensate for your heavy belly by bringing your hips backwards. This can close off the pelvic floor muscles around your backside, causing them to be short and tight—not what you want for childbirth.
- Rolled shoulders, which could be the result of new tension on your chest muscles from your growing breasts. (If you stand with your arms by your sides and notice that the backs of your hands face forwards, your shoulder blades wing out or your shoulders just look rounded forwards, you have rolled shoulders.) These are linked with upper back and neck pain.
Time to Straighten Up
"Now that you know what to look for, take stock of your current natural posture", says Battles. "Then, check in with your posture a few times per day and scan for the tendencies above, especially as your pregnancy progresses. This will help you create awareness of the stances you naturally gravitate towards so you can start correcting them".
"Overall, making some corrections can help you reduce pain and possibly even injury", says Battles. Try these steps:
1. Adjust as needed.
So, you catch yourself with ribcage thrust out, back arched and glutes clenched. What now? "Take a breath and reset. You may need to make the following modifications to your posture", says Proulx. Not all may apply to you, so shift where needed.
- If you're standing with your toes pointed outwards, bring them forwards so your feet are closer to parallel.
- If your pelvis is pushing forwards, pull it back so your hips are positioned under your shoulders.
- Roll your shoulders back so that your elbows are behind your torso and your hands are by your side, with your thumbs pointing forwards.
2. Change it up.
"Holding one posture fairly consistently makes it more likely you'll experience pain and discomfort, especially in your lower back", says Proulx. (Lower back pain is something that at least half of women experience during pregnancy, according to research, and it can affect how you feel during everyday activities and also contribute to fatigue.) "If you sit a lot, try taking some standing and walking breaks", says Proulx. If you have to stand for a while, don't be a statue: gently sway your hips side to side to help prevent stiffness (a sick beat helps with this one).
3. Strengthen your postural muscles.
Shout out to your upper back and core, which support you while you move, while you stand and even while you sit. To increase their stamina, do some targeted strength training. "For your upper back, start with pulling exercises, such as bent-over rows", says Proulx. Working this area has the added benefit of helping you out post-partum, when your baby goes from being attached to you on the inside to being attached to you on the outside. (Trust that even a newborn will feel heavy after a while.)
As for building up your core strength and endurance, Proulx likes kettlebell carries (walk while carrying a kettlebell in one or both hands) and Pallof presses (you'll want to Google this one for proper guidance, just look for instructions from a certified trainer or physiotherapist). For strengthening your hips, which should help with pelvic stability, mix glute bridges and squats into your rotation, and add a resistance band to increase the challenge.
4. Show your abs a little extra support.
Strength training your postural muscles will go far, but for a bonus assist, consider wearing a belly band (not a waist trainer—we would never!) or high-waisted compression leggings (try a maternity pair for comfort). "When your abs get tired—pretty inevitable as your belly grows—this gear can help your torso stay stacked over your hips during day-to-day activities", says Proulx.
5. Give yourself grace.
Despite your best efforts to catch your poor posture and straighten it back up, you may still feel achy at times. It's OK! You're pregnant, and your body is constantly changing. "You can do everything right and still have symptoms and experience discomfort", says Battles. "What's more, it can be counterproductive to constantly try to maintain a neutral spine or feel shame when you realise that you're standing 'wrong'", she says. No need to beat yourself up. All it means is that the position you're in isn't serving you well right now and you may need to bring awareness back in and adjust.
Good advice for parenthood too, if you ask us.
Words: Jessica Migala
Photography: Vivian Kim