Pregnancy is a miraculous experience and display of the female body’s wisdom. The body, although naturally designed to experience the tugs and pulls and stretches of pregnancy, is certainly pushed to offer this function!
Many women experience very similar signs and symptoms and sometimes musculoskeletal conditions such as pelvic misalignment, urinary incontinence (loss of urine during exercise, cough or sneeze, etc) joint pain and dysfunction, low back pain and sciatica.
The Canadian Physiotherapy Association provided this statement: “Between 39% and 61% of women experience urinary incontinence during their first pregnancy, and half will remain incontinent at eight weeks postpartum. One-third of those not incontinent during pregnancy will develop incontinence after childbirth”. Pelvic Floor exercises taught by a Physiotherapist, can prevent urinary incontinence.
Pain of the pelvis and low back are also preventable before, during and after pregnancy with proper core exercise technique – no ladies, sit-ups do not suffice.
You must heed the advice given by Joseph Pilates in his core exercise education – back “neutral”/straight and lower abdomen tight and flat (no sucking in!!) along with some other important points regarding the pelvic floor, your diaphragm and a muscle in your back called the Multifidus.
Here is a description of proper initial core contraction. This must be held as these muscles are endurance muscles and thus, function with low contraction over long periods of time. They normally function by coming on automatically even before you begin movement! But can be retrained or strengthened with conscious effort.
These are the muscles that get your lower abdomen flat.
There are four muscles to be aware of to start:
- Transversus abdominis
- Pelvic Floor
In standing, side lying or on your hands and knees with your back straight. Take a small breath in, as you breath out draw your lower abdomen and belly button towards your spine (careful not to suck in). Also contract your pelvic floor lightly (as though stopping the flow of urine). Hold this tranversus abdominis contraction and resume regular breathing. If it is difficult to resume regular breathing then you may be exerting too much effort in your contraction of your pelvic floor or abdominal muscles or you are sucking in (or all of the above). This should feel like a low effort exercise no bearing down or sucking in and relax your buttocks as well.
You know what? It takes practice and the effects are worth it! You WILL notice a decrease in back pain and with a guided progressive appropriate program you WILL notice your back pain disappear.
A trained Physiotherapist in this area can help progress you further in a proper core exercise program and help relieve you of any of these discomforts and pain.
Another quick note, (there are so many!!) Exercise is proven beneficial before, during and after pregnancy so even a walk will help! And you can practice your deep core while you walk. And this is also a good opportunity to get together with some fellow friends and mothers to chat!