Pregnancy and posture: How to protect your back

While having kids is an amazing experience, it can also send you into a slump – literally.

The extra weight you carry while pregnant and the extra lifting, carrying and bending once bub has arrived can really take a toll on your back. 

Fitness expert Dell-Maree Day says correcting your posture during and after pregnancy isn’t as difficult as you think.

The Sydney-based former Pilates instructor and creator of The Invisible Exercise, says it is all about realigning your body.

Her 10 week course guides you through the practice of using the body's 639 muscles correctly, mastering 10 poses that will realign the body.

“Developing and retaining good posture is so important when you’re pregnant or have just given birth,” says Dell-Maree.

“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 to correcting your posture, pre and post pregnancy.

1. Stand correctly, even if you’re carrying a heavy load!

Many pregnant women, particularly in the later months of pregnancy, 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.

2. Sit up straight

It's importantnt to learn to sit up straight. 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.

3. Stabilise your body after childbirth

Once you’ve given birth, do 10 – 20 minutes a day of my breathing technique, ideally for the first 12 weeks. This 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.

4. Pick up your child 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.

5. 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.

6. 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 Dell-Maree’s The Invisible Exercise program, visit www.theinvisibleexercise.com.au

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