A Fit & Healthy Pregnancy, Part I
It’s no secret that staying active during pregnancy helps to promote a healthy pregnancy, delivery and post-partum recovery. Indoor cycling is a great, low impact form of exercise that is appropriate for many moms-to-be! In fact, we recently started an informal Ascend Mom’s group because we have so many riders who are pregnant and riding! (Want in? Email us!)
However, as our posture changes during pregnancy, so does our positioning on the bike as well as how our muscles engage to perform a proper pedal stroke. It’s important to be aware and adjust for these changes. It’s also important to understand the difference between normal pregnancy aches and pains, versus discomfort that can be alleviated through proper stretching, strengthening exercises and therapeutic care.
We consulted with Dr. Miranda Wall, who worked with our owner, Kat during her pregnancy last year, to share her expertise on the postural changes during pregnancy and how chiropractic care can help keep you active on the bike and make you the strongest version of yourself pre and post baby.
How your body changes during pregnancy
The postural changes of pregnancy have profound effects on many areas of your body. As the weight of your baby grows and the uterus expands, the pelvis tips to counterbalance the load. The pubic bone and tailbone move backward, increasing the arch in your lower back.
Because the spine is a dynamic structure, alignment changes in the pelvis have a ripple effect on the rest of the spine. The upper back increases its curve, which rounds the shoulders forward and head to slide forward. Too much curve in the upper back is referred to as a kyphotic (rounded) posture. So during pregnancy, women experience a compound alignment problem; increased in the curve in the upper back and in the lower back, increasing the "s" shape of the spine. As pregnancy advances, the ribcage also expands dramatically, providing needed additional space for the lungs as the uterus expands and fills the abdominal cavity.
These postural misalignments may cause:
· low back pain
· hip/pelvic girdle pain
· mid back and neck pain/tightness
Almost half of all mothers-to-be suffer from low back pain. Hormone-related joint looseness and postural changes as the baby grows contribute to reduced joint stability, potentially causing pain in the pelvis, hips, groin and low back. Sacroiliac joint dysfunction and minor misalignments in the low back and SI joint (called subluxations) are a major contributing factor. Sciatica is another common symptom that occurs during pregnancy and causes pain, tingling or numbness from the low back to the back of the leg and/or foot along with muscle spasms in this area. During the 2nd or 3rd trimester, hip and pelvic pain may occur and are closely related to low back pain. .
To compensate for these postural deviations, specific muscle groups must work harder to support the body in the upright position. Over time, these muscles shorten and become tight, and opposing muscle groups need to work less to support the body and weaken. As the belly expands, the postural deviations worsen, which in turn, further augment muscular imbalances. One example of a muscle group that commonly gets tight during pregnancy are the hip flexors. Your hip flexors run along the front of the hip and are responsible for bringing the upper leg toward the front of the body. (you use these a lot in cycling!) These muscles can become extra tight during pregnancy and can contribute to hip and low back pain. Weak abdominal muscles can exacerbate this tightness, increasing the curve of the low back and disrupting pelvic alignment.
However, you can prevent or lessen most of these conditions with chiropractic care and a prenatal exercise program that focuses on counterbalancing these effects by:
· Stretching muscle groups that tend to over-tighten
· Strengthening muscle groups that tend to weaken
· Keeping your alignment balanced as your body changes
What can you expect from a prenatal chiropractic visit?
All chiropractors are trained to work with pregnant women. We use special tables that adjust for a pregnant woman's body. Hormones and weight changes can leave you sway-backed and unusually clumsy due to a rapidly lowering center of gravity, and all of this can do quite a number on your spine. At your first chiropractic visit, you will receive an exam which will be tailored to your main reason for coming in (low back pain, midback pain, headaches, or because you want to keep your alignment healthy for pregnancy and birthing). I will then let you know what I found through your history and exam and what I can do to help (Of course, if I feel that you need to be referred to another healthcare specialist or for something further, I will do so at this point.) Then I will begin your treatment. I will work on the joints and muscles using the best techniques for your body and specific issue. These will likely include soft tissue work like active and myofascial release. I may go over specific exercises and/or stretches to help you maintain your alignment between visits and help balance the musculature. If you had concerns about diet and nutrition, I will address those as well!
Preparing for Delivery
Maintaining pelvic balance and alignment is an important reason to obtain chiropractic care during pregnancy. When the pelvis is misaligned it may reduce the amount of room for the developing baby (known as intrauterine constraint). A misaligned pelvis may also make it difficult for the baby to get into the best position for delivery. With chiropractic care and a balanced prenatal exercise program, you will give yourself the best opportunity to have a healthy pregnancy and delivery, and help your body "bounce back" faster after delivery.
Contact & a special offer!
I am offering free pregnancy consults during the month of March! My office is located in north Old Town. If you'd like to schedule a visit or redeem your free consult email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 703-739-0456. You can find out more about our practice at www.chiroassoc.net