Pregnancy is an incredible time in a woman’s life! Your body will change more in 9 months, than a man’s will in his entire lifetime. With so much that seems out of your control as your baby grows, understanding these changes can help so much when adding fitness to your healthy pregnancy. The changes happen primarily at the muscular level, which then translates to shifts at the skeletal level. These gradual shifts lead to poor posture, which can lead to muscle fatigue and pain. When you add in “mom movement patterns” with load or resistance, we can work towards better alignment and increased energy. The specific patterns of movement that your body will be asked to do as a new mom can be practiced and mastered before baby comes home. You are training for strength for motherhood!
To understand the shifts and why they happen, let’s dive a little deeper into understanding the pregnant body. There is a hormone called relaxin which flows through the body during pregnancy and it causes ligamentous laxity (it loosens connective tissue/your joints). This is actually quite helpful because it allows for the pelvis to expand to accommodate your growing baby. It also allows for the rib cage to flare towards the end of pregnancy, giving space for the diaphragm to expand laterally. Relaxin also helps for the uterine and breast tissue to expand beyond their normal size. But relaxin doesn’t stop there…is loosens ALL connective tissue. Your joints will become looser, you may feel a little off balance and your range of motion could greatly increase. This will come into play during your prenatal workouts. A few tips to that end:
- Honor your pre—pregnancy range of motion. No need to push too far in your flexibility, just because you can now.
- Start an exercise pattern with smaller movements to test your stability and balance, and then progress.
- Have a balance aid available, especially in third trimester when your weight distribution is most skewed, in case you lose your balance and need something to hold onto (a wall, tree, etc. Not your trainer)
To combat the musculoskeletal shifts taking place, let’s first discuss where they occur. The two main areas of postural dysfunction that you could experience are called Kyphosis and Lordosis. Let’s break these down:
What is Kyphosis? It’s the forward “dumping” of the shoulders. Most human beings are dealing with some level of kyphosis because life pulls us forward and staying in good alignment takes work! When you are pregnant, you have increased weight from baby and breasts pulling your forward even more.
Rest - Simply put, you need to sleep!
In addition to physical conditioning and conscious eating, sleep plays a major role in athletic performance and competitive results. The quality and amount of sleep athletes get is often the key to winning. REM sleep in particular provides energy to both the brain and body. If sleep is cut short, the body does not have time to repair memory, repair muscle tissue, and release growth hormones.
How Does Resistance Training Help? The longer you stay with your shoulders pulled forward, the tighter the muscles of your chest will get. In contrast to your chest being tight, the muscles of your upper back become weakened and elongated the longer those shoulders are rolled forward. Adding in exercises with resistance, like a Row or a Rear Fly, will strengthen the muscles of the upper back to pull you back into proper posture and out of muscle fatigue and pain.
What is Lordosis? It’s the exaggerated curve of the low back as baby gets bigger and bigger. Relaxin plays its part in this postural shift in pregnancy, as does the importance of strength work. Your pelvic joints become looser and with the weight of baby getting bigger and bigger, the pelvis could be pulled anteriorly (towards the front), causing the low back to sway. Remaining in this position can lead to a great deal of back pain.
How Does Resistance Training Help? The longer you stay in lordosis, more muscle imbalances start to occur. If not addressed with strength training, the abdominal muscles become elongated and are less efficient at muscle contraction. These muscles are pivotal to helping to bring that pelvis back into alignment. This core strengthening benefits the entire pregnancy by providing the power to stay in neutral…when your body is being challenged as that beautiful baby grows.
Your Labor and Delivery will be an Event - Just like you would probably train for a 5K, 10K or some other physical challenge, it greatly benefits your body to go into delivery with strength. The total body and core strength you gain during the 9 months of your pregnancy could lead to a different labor and delivery story than if you hadn’t. As your pregnancy progresses, use resistance training to strengthen your 3-dimensional core musculature in various positions: Supine, on all fours and standing.
Your Body is Incredible! It is growing human life and if you add fitness to a healthy pregnancy, that experience can be profoundly better. The potential benefits of exercise during pregnancy are numerous, like, increased energy, less obstetric interventions, shorter labor & delivery times and a faster recovery. Prenatal strength training is a win all around!