Your pregnant body is constantly changing and growing, and as your pregnancy advances, your posture will naturally shift as well. After all, you’re carrying extra weight, which can impact how you naturally sit, stand, and move. As a chiropractor at Anchorage, Alaska's Better Health Chiropractic, I’ve helped many patients suffering from back pain due to the posture changes that take place in pregnancy. Here are some reasons pregnancy affects your posture and some tips for maintaining good posture.
Why Pregnancy Impacts Posture
There are several reasons pregnancy can impact your posture. For starters, you have more weight to carry, which means that your body has to work harder to distribute the load. This extra weight often puts pressure on your back because your pelvis pushes forward and strains the muscles and ligaments in the back. You may feel the most pain and pressure in the lower back since it’s right behind your pelvis. Over the course of your pregnancy, your back and spine will experience a lot of change and may become tilted or unnaturally curved.
In addition, your abdominal muscles become weaker during pregnancy. As your baby grows, these muscles stretch and lose strength since you’re not able to exercise them as effectively. If you don’t use a muscle group for an extended period of time, those muscles shrink and weaken. With weaker abs, your back is likely to take on more weight-bearing. Essentially, your back will try to support your body and core more, and lower back pain and strain become inevitable.
Hormonal changes can also make your joints looser as your body grows. These changes are your body’s way of adjusting for your baby and delivery, but your joints won’t be as stable as they once were. When your joints are less stable, especially in the back, it’s more challenging for your spine to support your back and body as a whole. This is a recipe for poor posture and possible injury.
Posture Challenges While Pregnant
One of the biggest challenges to posture health while pregnant is swayback posture. Swayback posture occurs when your lower back and pelvis are drawn forward, and your upper back is shifted backward. This gives a “slouched” position, with limited control of the lumbar region. It strains the lower back and causes general discomfort. Swayback posture is extremely common during pregnancy because belly weight naturally moves your pelvis forward.
Since looser joints make it harder to bend the knees and support the weight of the body, pregnant women also tend to lock their knees and pivot their feet to better withstand their changing weight. This can lead to longer-term knee pain after your baby arrives.
Another challenge is added pressure on your organs because of poor posture. For example, the way you lie down and sit can reduce circulation and put pressure on your organs. Positions you should avoid include
- Lying flat on your back
- Lying fully on your stomach
- Sitting without back support
- Sitting for more than 30 minutes at a time
Tips for Improving Posture While Pregnant
It’s important to be mindful of your posture while pregnant. Generally speaking, your body should show alignment: feet apart (shoulder width), slightly bent knees, neutral pelvis, straight back, chest forward, and shoulders down and back. This alignment should feel natural and easy and not cause strain in your lower back, hips, or knees.
Let’s look at other ways you can maintain healthy posture during your pregnancy:
- Driving: Use a lumbar pillow if needed to get into a comfortable driving position, with your knees bent and your feet on the pedals. Try to keep a distance of a foot between your belly and the steering wheel. Your seat belt should fall as low on your hips as possible and never on your belly.
- Lying down: Sleeping on your back can cut off your circulation and create excess stress on your back. You should sleep on your side to minimize pressure on your organs. If possible, sleep on your left side. You may want to place a pillow between your (slightly bent) knees for additional support and comfort.
- Sitting: Back support makes all the difference when sitting. Be sure you’re sitting all the way back in your chair, with your feet flat on the floor. Use a lumbar pillow to achieve better alignment, and try to avoid crossing your legs.
- Standing: Avoid the swayback position by keeping your weight evenly distributed. Try to keep your body weight from shifting too far forward. Keep your knees slightly bent, and make sure your shoes have ample arch support so you can ensure stable footing.
- Walking: Try to maintain a good standing posture as you walk. Keep your body aligned from head to toe. Stay loose and relaxed.
- Working out: Your workouts should be approved by your doctor. Avoid adding pressure to your belly or organs. Many pregnant women find water aerobics or yoga to be good options. Pregnant women may need to adjust and modify workout moves and positions, even in gentle classes. For instance, hips become looser during pregnancy, which will affect how some yoga poses are performed; because of this openness, you may feel inclined to push your body more than is safe.
As your baby grows, be sure to keep your posture in mind so that you stay as comfortable as possible. By following these posture tips, you’ll avoid aches and pains and maximize your movement and energy. We wish you a happy pregnancy!