My favourite exercises for pregnancy are aimed at aiding the body in fighting the stresses placed on the body during pregnancy. The main issues I see as a Chiropractor during pregnancy are the postural strain from the increased weight from the baby and the stretch that this provides on the tummy. We want to prepare the body for birth and pregnancy and just a few exercises can be incredibly useful.
Why do I need to do exercises during pregnancy?
Pregnancy places a lot of stress on the body. The increased weight at the front causes a change in weight distribution and postural changes. This leads to a typical ‘swayback’ posture. This can cause pain and discomfort in a lot of different areas within the body. This can be helped by strengthening certain muscles to support the body better.
Research also shows that if you have weak abdominal muscles this makes you more likely to develop a condition called Diastasis Recti. This is where you get a separation of the muscles in the middle of your abdomen and is very common following pregnancy.
My favourite pregnancy exercises
These are my three favourite exercises that I give to pretty much every pregnant patient that I get in my Ipswich Chiropractic Clinic. They are quite simple and very effective.
A lot of people are chest breathers. This automatically increases postural stress by increasing tension on certain muscles. Abdominal breathing helps to support the core muscles as well as aiding good fluid movement around the baby. I find that the best way to do this exercise is just as you are going to bed.
Lie down on your back and place one hand on your abdomen and one hand on your chest. When you take a breath in, your hand on your abdomen should move and the one on your chest should not. At first, most people will need to force their belly out as they breathe in. This forced movement gets your body used to the process. I would usually recommend doing this for a couple of minutes. This can also be done lying on your side.
People have also reported that doing this helps them get off to sleep as it acts as a kind of meditation through the concentration on the breath.
Strength of the muscles in your buttocks is incredibly important. As the baby grows extra weight is placed on the front of the body, this causes the posture to change. Strong buttock muscles help to maintain a good posture.
To do the glute bridge lie on your back with your feet flat on the ground, hip width apart, and your knees bent. You can place your arms by your side on the floor or across your chest to make it more difficult. Flatten your lower back to the ground and tense your buttock muscles. Lift your pelvis off the ground, try to make your body straight from shoulders to knees. I recommend coming up with a count of two and then back down with a count of two for a nice, controlled movement. This should be repeated in sets of ten.
Lower abdominal strengthening
What tends to happen during pregnancy is, as the baby grows, you get an overexaggerated curve in the lower back. This is to cope with the extra weight at the front of the body. Along with strengthening the buttock muscles you also want to strengthen the abdominal muscles.
Lie on your back with your feet flat on the ground, hip width apart, and your knees bent. Flatten your low back to the ground and hold it flat to the ground for ten seconds. Make sure you remember to breathe as people tend to hold their breath. Repeat this ten times.
This position can be used as a great starting point for harder exercises using your arms and legs such as a dead bug exercise.
Yours in health,
Mykel Mason DC LRCC MChiro