5 Ways to Prepare Your Body for Pregnancy
By Dr. Jennifer Gentile, PT, DPT, SCS
Ensure that your body is ready to carry a baby by addressing before pregnancy any pain or problems associated with posture or weakness.
Here are some physical therapist tips for helping to prepare your body for pregnancy and to guard against musculoskeletal pain and dysfunction during and after it.
1. Strengthen your pelvic muscles. To strengthen your muscles, use pelvic floor contractions (commonly referred to as Kegels), which involve gently squeezing the sphincter muscles (rather than the buttocks and thighs).
2. Prepare for “baby belly” by focusing on your core. Core exercises can help prevent diastasis recti —abdominal muscle separation. As your belly grows, the abdominal muscles that run vertically along either side of the belly button can be forced apart, like a zipper opening. If these abdominal muscles separate from each other too much, the result can be low back pain, pelvic pain, or other injuries as your body tries to compensate for its weaker core.
3. Take a breath! Learning proper breathing and relaxation techniques from your physical therapist will help prepare your body and mind for a healthy pregnancy. It is important to learn to properly exhale before performing any exercise. With proper technique, your core and pelvic floor muscles will contract automatically, and this will lead to optimal stability and injury protection.
4. Begin a regular fitness routine. Exercise will help reduce the amount of cortisol (stress hormone) in your body and will boost your muscle and cardiovascular strength—strength you’ll need to carry that extra baby weight. Once you become pregnant, consider engaging in relatively low-impact activities, such as swimming, walking on even surfaces, biking, or using an elliptical machine.
5. Practice good posture. Poor posture can have a major effect on every part of your body, particularly with regard to pain during pregnancy. A physical therapist can evaluate your posture and suggest muscle-strengthening exercises and lifestyle education (such as not sitting at a desk for long periods, and carrying grocery bags properly). Establishing healthy posture habits—pre-baby—will better prepare your body for the extra weight of pregnancy and lessen your chances of low back and pelvic pain.
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