Being pregnant and discovering just how damn amazing your body is, is a wonderful experience. But hey mama, has anyone told you about your poor old back?
As you bask in the glory that is that gorgeous pregnancy belly, there’s no denying it can tip your posture into hunchback hell. And sometimes the issues carry over into life once your bundle of joy arrives. Welcome to life bending, lifting and carrying around you bubba. Sadly, it can cause you all sorts of pain.
Fitness expert Dell-Maree Day says making sure you have good posture in your pregnancy and after childbirth is one of the best things you can do to look after your amazing body.
The Sydney-based former Pilates instructor is the creator of a unique program called, The Invisible Exercise, which over a course of 10 weeks shows you how to correctly use all 639 muscles in your body by mastering 10 poses that will realign your body.
“You’re likely to be stressed either before or after your baby arrives, so keeping your pain levels down is vital to not exacerbate that,” says Dell-Maree. “You will also strengthen and tone your body at the same time.”
“I had one client who previously had poor posture before giving birth. She followed my tips and then told me after her baby was born that she only had a stomach separation of a few centimetres – her abdominal muscles had held up extremely well, just by correcting her posture.”
Here are Dell-Maree’s tips for pre- and post-natal posture techniques:
Stand correctly, even if you’re carrying a heavy load!
Many pregnant women, particularly in the latter months either hunch forward along with their belly, or overcorrect by leaning back too much. Whilst it may be a bit tricky, it’s important to stand properly at all times so you don’t develop bad habits during this period.
Firstly, look straight ahead with your feet 10cm apart. Stand as tall and relaxed as possible. You will instantly look and feel slimmer as your lower and upper back will lift and your shoulders will relax. Also try not to look downwards (like at your mobile phone) too much as this will pull your neck forwards.
Sit up straight
Next, learn to move your spine away from the back of your chair and sit on the front half of the chair. Place your feet flat on the floor directly under your knees with a fist-size space between your feet and knees.
Look straight ahead and sit as tall and relaxed as possible. Don’t forget to relax your arms. As you do this you will notice your spine has completely stacked itself up so the natural curves of your spine are reinstated. Importantly, your neck as well as your upper back muscles will be in the correct posture. Aim to do this for a few minutes every hour and gradually adapt to sitting further away from the chair back more of the time.
Walk tall by not hunching forward and looking straight ahead in a relaxed manner. Take the longest stride you can without lapsing into a “silly walk”! You will burn more calories because the longer your stride, and the more tall and relaxed you are, the more muscles you will use. You will find walking easier and your posture will be better.
Stabilise your body
Once you’ve given birth, do 10 – 20 minutes a day of my breathing technique, ideally for the first 12 weeks after birth.That will help repair abdominal separation, stabilise your pelvis and strengthen your pelvic floor. If you’re sitting move away from the back to the front half of the chair. Place your feet flat on the floor with a fist sized space between your feet and knees.
Look straight ahead and sit as tall and relaxed as possible. Already your vertebrae will be stacking themselves up so the natural curves of your spine will have improved.Breathe in through your nose. As you breathe out through your lips think: ‘sternum through towards your spine’. This will prompt your body to retain a new muscle memory. When upright, stand as tall and relaxed, and do the same breathing technique.
Pick up your bubba correctly
If your child’s on the floor, bend your knees like a squat keeping your back nice and straight. If picking up a child in a cot after you bend over, stand up relaxed and tall as soon as possible.
Work your glutes and hamstrings
These muscles need to be working well so they support your lower back. Go for power walks and push the pram taking the longest stride you can.
Strengthen your abs whilst breastfeeding
Nestle your spine into the back of your chair and sit tall and relaxed. Don’t hunch over. Do the breathing technique to strengthen your abs at the same time.
Once you start retraining your body correctly your posture will maintain itself naturally. It won’t be something you have to ‘work at’ no matter how much your kids test you!
To learn more about the 10 master postures outlined in Dell-Maree’s The Invisible Exercise program, log onto www.theinvisibleexercise.com.au