Updated: Feb 5, 2021
Pregnancy is the most miraculous feat the human body can perform. It is also an incredibly strenuous event. Because it’s such a natural phenomenon, it often does not occur to us to prepare or “train” for pregnancy.
Historically our ancestors didn’t have to. We were far more mobile than we are today. We never sat in chairs, we sat in deep squats like the baby below. We walked or ran as our primary means for locomotion. We were always in the shape of our lives. This does not exactly reflect where we are today.
I am not shaming our more modern, comfortably-seated selves. We live much longer now than we ever have and there are many benefits to our current lives compared to our hunter-gatherer ancestors.
It does mean that we need to look at pregnancy for what it is: a long-ass marathon.
We are talking about a marathon that lasts for almost ten months and gradually gets more and more challenging.
If you suffer from any of these issues, you need to prepare for pregnancy:
Low back pain
Abdominal scar tissue
Perineal scar tissue
Pelvic organ prolapse
Upper back pain
It seems like there are only a few people in the world who are not in that category. So it’s safe to assume that most everyone should consider prehab (preparatory rehabilitation) for pregnancy.
To address your concerns more comprehensively, I advise you to schedule a free consultation with me here. But if you want to take a stab at prehab on your own, here is my checklist:
Intrinsic Core Activation
It’s very important that you understand how to contract your deepest abdominal layer, transversus abdominis, and coordinate this with your breath and your pelvic floor muscles.
Your deepest abdominal layer wraps around your torso like a seat belt. Your pelvic floor is a group of muscles found at the base of the pelvis that support the organs and perform sphincter and sexual functions. Your diaphragm is your primary breathing muscle that coordinates with these other two muscles groups.
We are our strongest when we know how to activate and control this system.
Sound like greek? Here’s a video to show you how.
Hip Range of Motion
Many of us have very tight hip flexors. These muscles are found on the front of your hips, and are always in a short position because of the way we sit.
If you have any issues with pelvic rotation, yours might even be asymmetrically tight! That can lead to problems down the road. Here are some good stretches to help with tight hip flexors.
Once your hip range of motion is adequate, we can begin to activate and strengthen your glutes. Glutes is a term for three muscles that make up your butt. The butt is the powerhouse of the body! This is where we get our power to move us forward. If your glute muscles are not active, you will have to use other muscles that are not as powerful and not meant to propel us to walk and run. Overtime, this results in hip, back, pelvic pain and other issues like incontinence.
It doesn’t take much to turn these off. It happened to me during grad school. I was studying in my chair so much that my glutes just gave up, even though I ran 45 minutes 3x a week! Here’s some great exercises to help turn that butt on.
How are you lifting your toddler? Is it with a neutral spine, deep core activation, and on the exhale? No? It’s never too late to change.
When we hold our breath to exert ourselves in order to lift or perform a challenging task, we end up straining, which puts pressure down through our pelvis and pushes our organs out. Over time this can result in prolapse or hernias. Making sure you exhale, or breathe at all, is a simple way to help prevent issues in the future and promote safe lifting mechanics.
Develop an Exercise Program
If you are not already an exerciser, I recommend developing a simple program 3-months before becoming pregnant. This gives your body time to adapt to your program, and it gives you time to make it a way of life.
According to ACOG, Exercising most days of the week for at least 30 minutes a day can help to improve constipation, bloating, and back pain. In addition it facilitates sleep and helps reduce risk of developing gestational diabetes.
Your program may shift overtime as your baby grows. For example, I switched from running, cross country skiing and rock climbing in the first trimester to a simple walking and swimming routing in the third trimester.
Be gentle and kind to yourself and your body. This is a beautiful time, your body is working hard. Any form of movement will do. I loved floating in the water with my baby right before birth first thing in the morning on warm summer days.
If you are interested in learning more, click here to schedule a free consultation.