As the baby grows inside your abdomen, there are changes to your own body that are taking place. Hormones are changing. The loads on your joints and muscles change and often increase as your baby increases its weight.
Your centre of gravity will also need to adjust and that will change how you change your posture so you don’t fall forward with the weight of the baby. Your muscles in your back have to work extra hard to hold the trunk up and this can create muscular fatigue and pain in your back.
Lots of pregnant ladies will tend to arch backwards so they don’t have to strain their muscles so much to hold themselves up. However, this can place more strain onto your joints particularly in the lower back. For example, if you are using your lower back like a door hinge, there will be extra stress placed on that hinged section of your back rather than spreading the load throughout the whole spine. This can create joint pain in your spine.
Another pain that is quite common is pelvis pain. There are three joints in your pelvis. Two at the back, your sacroiliac joints. One at the front, your pubic symphysis joint. As the pregnancy progresses, hormones in your body are released to prepare the body to be able to open up easier and allow the baby to slide out easily!!(Hopefully!!) This is great for the baby, however, not necessarily great for the mum who still needs stability in the joints to move around. Muscles then try and compensate for the laxity in the joints. This can cause fatigue and once again pain. Pain can be from the joints themselves, the ligaments that are constantly on stretch, or the muscles just overworked.
Rib pain can also take place with the baby increasing in size. The baby takes up more and more room in the abdomen and pushes itself up into the diaphragm. The diaphragm is a breathing muscle and if there is no room for the diaphragm to move to get the breath in, the body has to get the air in somehow. That’s when we use less efficient muscles to breathe like the muscles in between the ribs or our neck and shoulder muscles. These can get tired and fatigued and hence pain in either the rib muscles or shoulder and neck muscles. Ribs can also get out of alignment from the muscles pulling on the rib joints causing pain.
This all sounds so dismal. However, you can do something about it. Optimise your breath, alignment and exercise!
Breathing: you need to learn how to use the diaphragm despite the fact that the baby is taking up more room. This can be done with proper feedback. Breathing properly will take the load off the muscles that are not meant to be used for everyday breathing and hence less pain.
Alignment: Putting yourself in the proper alignment will allow better access to your postural muscles and offload stress on your joints. Once again, this can be done with good feedback and so you know how to hold yourself when you are sitting, standing or moving.
Exercise: Studies have shown that exercise can give you an easier birth with less intervention. You need to have good cardiovascular fitness to have the endurance of what can be often a lengthy labour. Strength training can work on particular postural muscles in order to hold you in the right alignment for long periods of time without suffering fatigue and therefore pain. Pilates, Yoga and swimming are often good choices of exercise whilst pregnant as it can be gentle on the joints whilst trying to strengthen or stretch. At the end of the day any form of exercise that you enjoy selected at the right intensity is generally going to be good for a pregnant body. For some pregnant ladies, medical issues may inhibit them from exercising but this is a minority. It is always best to check with your doctor before starting a new exercise regime.
Feel empowered that you can do something about the aches and pains that can often come with pregnancy. Pain doesn’t have to get worse as the pregnancy progresses. Visit Inspired Physiotherapy for individualised guidance on tailoring a program for your needs.