For many women, becoming pregnant will be the biggest change their body every goes through. While swollen ankles, morning sickness and fatigue are all common side effects of pregnancy, many pregnant women suffer from bad posture too.
According to the NHS, postural changes that occur due to a growing bump can contribute to pelvic and back pain. It recommends always standing tall and evenly distributing your weight as the best solution.
When you’re sitting (like we all have been for hours on end while WFH), it’s best to pop a folded towel behind your back to support your lower back.
To find out more about how pregnancy affects your posture, we spoke to Hollie Grant, expert pilates instructor and founder of The Bump Plan below.
Why is posture so important in pregnancy?
During pregnancy a combination of hormonal and mechanical changes take place that can rapidly alter our posture. Given that our bodies are used to working cohesively with our current posture, these changes can lead to discomfort, aches and pains. And it’s no wonder that we feel these things – by the end of your pregnancy your bump can weigh more than 5kg. Imagine strapping a dumbbell of that size to the front of your pelvis all day – it would be pretty tiring.
The main postural changes that take place are as follows:
The Pelvis – if we think of where our bumps sit, they are essentially at the front of the pelvis. The weight of your bump can pull the pelvis forward into an anterior tilt and many women feel this as tension in their lower backs
The Chest – our breasts can grow by 2-3 cup sizes during pregnancy and this can feel pretty heavy. As the breasts grow (and potentially get tender) we can start to round the shoulders, or round the upper back, causing a more hunched posture type.
How does it affect your mind and body in pregnancy?
Pregnancy related lower back pain is thought to affect over 50% of pregnant women, and as the name suggests it really isn’t enjoyable for anyone! Pain during pregnancy can really affect our mood, and it often leads women to stop moving – something that can not only make symptoms worse but can really affect their mental health. Staying active during pregnancy has massive health benefits and ensuring we have good posture, and strong functional muscles, can really help us continue doing what we love.
What daily exercises can you do to fix posture?
We all have our own posture “type” and no two postures are the same. But if we think about the areas of the body that will be under the greatest demand during pregnancy we can target those specifically.
The glutes – the glutes are the muscles that help to support the weight of your growing baby. They will aim to hold the pelvis in position, as your bump gets heavier. It’s therefore really important that you keep your glutes active and functional during pregnancy with exercises such as squats, lunges, adapted deadlifts and clams
The upper back – this part of the body is helping to support your growing boobs and bump, plus our modern-day lifestyles encourage a pretty rounded upper back as it is. So, maintaining strength in the upper back will really help encourage good posture during pregnancy. When the babies arrive we will be holding them A LOT, and they are heavy, so preparation for that is key. Exercises like rowing, reverse pec flies, thoracic extension, and superman can really help!
What are the signs of poor posture?
The easiest, and quickest, way to assess someone’s posture is to look at the shape of their spine as this is where most postural issues will show up. The curves of the spine should be gentle, and smooth. However many of the clients I see initially have a very deep curve in their upper back (we call this Kyphosis) or in their lower back (we call this lordosis). These excessive curves usually cause back pain, but not always.
Kyphosis can make it really difficult for us to breathe properly – if we are hunched over all day we’ll struggle to take a deep breath in and use the lungs to their maximum capacity. It can also cause the shoulders to round and the upper back to feel strain.
Lordosis can feel as though you are sticking out your bum, and your tummy. The excessive curve in the lower back can lead to pressure on the lumbar vertebrae and a fair amount of tension. This pain can also radiate down the legs.
How has WFH impacted that?
Many of us are sat down more than we ever were, and even if the most exercise we did pre-lockdown was walking to the train station, even that is removed. So, we are finding that many women are less active than previously. Inactivity is not ideal during pregnancy and we want women to feel comfortable and safe to exercise. Many of us have had to create new “desks” from dining tables, sofas or even beds, and these will not be in the right ergonomic set up for most women. When we consider that most of us are at our desks for 6, maybe 7 hours a day, this can have a massive effect on our posture.