Postural changes during pregnancy – Chelsea Sheppard, Registered Physiotherapist
Subtle and Not So Subtle…
There’s no denying your body changes during pregnancy. One of the most dramatic of changes is your posture. As the fetus grows and your body accommodates, subtle changes in your postural alignment occur on a daily basis. By the end of 40 weeks of pregnancy, these changes reveal a dramatic new posture.
Centre of Gravity Changes
Your centre of gravity is defined as a hypothetical point within the body where your body mass is centred. As your abdomen grows and breasts begin to enlarge, your centre of gravity shifts forwards, and your posture must adjust to prevent yourself from falling over. The weight of the abdomen gives a pregnant women the sensation that their weight is being pulled forwards and downwards.
In reality, the weight of the abdomen is causing an increase in the curvature of the lumbar spine and a tilting forwards of the pelvis. As a result of the excess lumbar lordosis and pelvic tilt, the upper body falls under strain as well.
Thoracic / Neck and Shoulder Changes
The mid back region (your thoracic spine) becomes increasingly rounded, the shoulders roll forwards and your chin and neck are pulled forwards.
Try This Experiment
Stand up and stick your bottom out behind you as far as you can by arching your low back. You may feel like you have to work extremely hard to hold your upper body upright, the pressure on your foot transfers closer to your toes (which may have to grip to prevent you from falling over). Do you knees lock straight??
This will give you a general idea of the postural changes that occur during pregnancy. Combine all the abnormal forces now placed on your spine with the hormonal changes that cause all of your ligaments to lose their tension (cue Relaxin) and there’s no wondering low back, mid back, neck, pelvic and hip pain are common during pregnancy! So, how can you give your muscles and joints a helping hand in avoiding pain during this pre-natal period?
What Can You Do?
During pregnancy, the abdominals, gluteals, scapular retractors, and deep cervical flexors should be trained to optimize your posture. A pre-natal Pilates or Yoga class is great for teaching how to make adjustments to your posture through subtle muscle activation exercises!
Written by Chelsea Sheppard