When you were younger, did your mom/dad/grandparent/teacher tell you to “sit up straight”? They may have been on to something! Having good posture is important for a number of things, especially during pregnancy. But what does “good posture” even mean? And how can you create and maintain good posture while your belly continues to grow?!
What exactly IS “good” posture?
There are a few things that go into having good posture. Let’s go over some of them here:
Having good posture means that we are in the most optimal alignment for our body. This allows our muscles and joints to function at their best.
When we’re in good alignment, we can move more easily and have less/no pain. We want to have good alignment throughout the body, including the head, neck, shoulders, spine and pelvis.
Curves of the Spine
Our spine is meant to have a nice S-curve, meaning that we have a curving in at the neck and low back and a relative curving out at the mid-back or thoracic spine.
All too often, people function with a C-curve in their spine. Think of a slouched position. There’s little to no differentiation between the neck, mid-back and low back curves. When someone is slouched, their head juts forward, their pelvis tilts back, they hang on their shoulder blades, there’s more rounding in the back…doesn’t this just look uncomfortable?!
Having good posture allows for better overall movement at our joints. For example, if you’re slouching or have that C-curve in your spine, you may be hunching your shoulders forward. This can often lead to mid/upper back pain as well as burning or pain around the shoulder blades.
This can actually be quite common in pregnancy as our bodies try to accommodate increased size and weight of not only the belly, but also the chest. Everything wants to pull forward!! If this is the case, sitting or standing for a long period of time, or using your arms for a while like when doing the dishes or caring for children can just increase the discomfort you might be feeling.
Being in this slouched position also inhibits how much motion you can get at the shoulders–so you might have a hard time reaching overhead. So, having good posture not only looks better but feels way better and allows you to maintain pain free static (sitting/standing) and dynamic (like reaching, lifting, carrying) positions during day-to-day activities.
Why having good posture in pregnancy can be more challenging than usual
Posture can and does change significantly due to pregnancy. These changes are often more apparent the further along in pregnancy we are.
Here are some of the normal things that occur during pregnancy:
- Due to hormones (estrogen, progesterone and relaxin), there is an increase in joint laxity.
- Our center of gravity changes as our bellies increase in size
- For most women, breasts grow in both weight and size.
- The uterus shifts position to the right as your baby grows.
- The overall increase in body weight over the course of pregnancy contributes to postural changes.
- Fatigue, as it relates to pregnancy, also contributes to changes as the more tired we are, the harder it is to maintain good, upright positioning.
- Any pre-existing muscle imbalances prior to pregnancy are often magnified in pregnancy.
Because of these postural changes that occur during pregnancy, we not only need to be aware of them, but to take action to help correct for them in sitting, standing and while walking, doing the stairs, playing with our kids, doing the laundry, exercising, running, etc.
Basically, paying attention to your posture most (if not all) of the time can really help your strength and endurance. It can also affect how well you can keep moving throughout the entirety of your pregnancy!
It will also greatly reduce your risk for injury or for developing any pain symptoms. Working on your posture can help you manage or even get rid of any pain or discomfort that you might be experiencing now.
5 things to work on now for better posture in pregnancy
Sometimes working on your posture can feel overwhelming, like you’re not exactly sure where to start. Here are five things you can easily start incorporating into your day to improve your posture in pregnancy:
1. Do shoulder blade squeezes-and do them often!
Postural muscles don’t need a lot of weight or resistance to get stronger. They just need LOTS of reinforcement and repetition.
To do a shoulder blade squeeze, pull your shoulders back, lightly bringing your shoulder blades together. Imagine there’s a pencil between your shoulder blades that you’re trying to “pinch.” Relax and then repeat.
Doing this move will help alleviate and prevent any neck, shoulder or shoulder blade discomfort.
2. Perform Chin Tucks
Your head should be aligned over your neck when sitting, standing and moving about your day. Your chin should not be jutting forward. This will create tension in the neck muscles, the head (think: headaches) and even the jaw.
This can occur from spending a lot of time driving, on a computer or on an electronic device. (Additionally, make sure your workstation is set up properly for your body and that you bring your device closer to your face to see, not your head slumping down toward your device!!)
To do a chin tuck, pull your head back gently to realign your head with your spine. The motion is like you’re making a double chin. But keep it gentle, you don’t have to move toward your extreme end range of motion. If you feel pulling at the back of your head and neck area, this is a sign that you are tight and need to do this often!
3. Imaging there’s a string attached
Imagine you have a string attached to the top of your head. And someone is pulling that string straight up to the sky. Did you feel yourself stand or sit up straighter as soon as you imagined that? You should feel some lengthening in the back of the neck and even in the low back if you’re tight or slouch down in this area.
This trick will help to restore your spinal curves to that beautiful S-shape that we want.
4. Deep abdominal activation
Yes, we can and should still be activating our core abdominal muscles when we’re pregnant! It’s good for your posture now and it’ll help set you up for a better ab recovery after you deliver.
What we want to work on is your transverse abdominus, or TA’s. This is the muscle group that corsets around the body from the spine all the way around to the front of the body.
To do this, think about hugging your baby up and in, toward your heart! This will help decrease low back and belly discomfort.
These pictures were taken within moments of each other. Notice how much “bigger” my belly looks in the first picture when my TA’s are relaxed? All of that relaxing and forward pressure is more work that your back has to do to hold you stable. Can you see how tightening up and in can help reduce back discomfort?
5. Get some belly support
Contracting your belly muscles is all well and good, but we can’t be doing that 100% of the time (nor should you). Another way to improve your posture and support your belly is to use tummytape.
Taping while tightening in through your TA’s for optimal posture and positioning will give you support AND help remind you to maintain good posture throughout the day.
tummytape can also help to take weight off of the pelvis, low back and in some cases, even the bladder. Try out tummytape risk-free with their 100% happiness guarantee. Shop now.
Working on your posture can be simple
But it’s not always easy!! When you’re just starting to work on your posture, you’ll likely find that you correct it and then a little while later, you might be slouching again!! This is okay. The first step in correcting your posture is noticing it! The more you work on it, the stronger your postural muscles will be to hold you in optimal alignment for longer and longer periods. Pretty soon you won’t even have to think about it at all–it will be automatic!
This article was written by Dr. Pope.
Rachel Pope is a Doctor of Physical Therapy, Pregnancy & Postpartum Exercise Specialist and Run Coach for Moms. She's a long time runner, hiker and mom of 4. To learn more, visit www.rachelpope.co