The most significant muscle stretching in the core happens along the rectus abdominus and impacts the connective tissue called the linea alba. The linea alba runs along the midline of the rectus abdominous from the sternum to the pubic bone connecting the muscle bellies (think of the muscles we see in six-pack abs) of the abdomen. As the uterus expands, the muscle bellies can separate and the linea alba stretches thin. This creates what is called a diastasis recti. In its most scientific sense, diastasis is a musculoskeletal injury, where the rectus abdominus tears at the connective tissue, separating it from the linea alba.
We may think this fun little side effect of pregnancy wouldn’t show up until the third trimester when baby is taking up a great deal of space in the abdomen and pressing on the internal organs, but for many folks, it shows up right away in the first trimester. Increased levels of progesterone slow down the soft muscle contractions of the intestines, which slows digestion so more nutrients can be absorbed. When food moves more slowly through the digestive tract, constipation and gas are natural side effects.
We often think about pelvic floor as relegated to the postpartum period. But working the pelvic floor during pregnancy is also extremely important. During pregnancy, the weight of the uterus increases, putting more pressure and weight on the pelvic floor muscles. Maintaining strength in the pelvic floor helps to ensure that, as the weight increases, pelvic floor muscles can continue to support the weight of the organs and maintain functionality. If pelvic floor does not remain healthy and strong we may notice a decrease in function as it becomes harder to hold urine in when we need to use the bathroom. Not only that, but studies have actually shown that doing pelvic floor work during pregnancy actually decreases the level of pelvic floor dysfunction postpartum, so we're also setting ourselves up for much better postpartum pelvic floor health too!
Let's face it, pregnancy, no matter how active you are, does a number on your core. Outside of general core weakness from the muscles being stretched out as baby grows, many folks also get some level of diastasis recti, a separation of the abdominal muscles that can contribute to additional weakness, pouching of the belly and bigger issues if left untreated. In the face of this it may feel like the best thing to do is to dive right into sit ups as soon as baby is born. Which is absolutely not the right answer. The best answer is doing core work, every day, in slow, incremental movements to help build core without doing any further damage. Here are four exercises you can do (once you've got clearance from your provider) to start rebuilding your core safely.
Diastasis recti is something often talked about after pregnancy as we start to address the changes that have happened to the body during pregnancy and continue to happen postpartum. The thing is though, you can start addressing diastasis during your pregnancy and steps you take then can make a difference in the amount of abdominal separation that happen. First off, what is diastasis recti?
The most significant muscle stretching in the core happens along the rectus abdominus and impacts the connective tissue called the linea alba. The rectus abdominus muscle consists of two sets of muscle bellies that run parallel and are held together by a connective tissue called the linea alba which runs from the sternum to the pubic bone. As baby grows and the uterus expands, the muscle bellies can separate and the linea alba stretches thin which is what creates diastasis recti.
So, what to do?
The second trimester is when you may start seeing an increase in low back pain, particularly around the SI Joint. This is due to relaxin’s effect on the SI joint, causing it to loosen and become less stable as well as later in this trimester the postural shifts in the low back due to increased load of baby.
But wait, what is my SI Joint? This is the joint between the sacrum (the heart shaped bone at the base of the spine) and the illium bones (the pelvic bones that come around and meet either side of the sacrum in the low back). This is considered a joint because it is held together my connective tissue (tendons and ligaments) and the sacrum can move slightly in relationship to the pelvic bones.
Are you returning to your yoga practice postpartum? We recommend waiting till you get clearance from your care provider before returning to your regular fitness routine. And even after you get clearance you may find it takes some time to have that time, energy and drive to get back on your mat. Not to worry, start when you like and know that you have the support of short online postpartum yoga videos that can help support you get back into the swing of things and also do so with the small snippets of time your little one may be allowing you. Ready to go back to your regular yoga class? If you can, find a postpartum yoga class to attend in your area. If you can't, here are some tips for ways to modify your yoga practice to support your body.
Yoga is not something that requires fancy pants, or tops or a yoga mat really. Yoga is something you can do anywhere with very little. The great thing? There some wonderful yoga poses that you can do using the support of your wall. And guess what? Everyone's got one of those. You can do these with or without a yoga mat. Just make sure that if you're on a slippery surface you're in bare feet so you don't slide. Yoga at the wall during pregnancy can help give us that added support for balance that we most definitely need as baby gets bigger. It can also allow us to go deeper into poses we might not necessarily go into away from the wall. Whether you have a regular prenatal yoga practice and just want to change things up or are looking for some great poses to get your started for the first time in a prenatal yoga practice, these 5 poses are for you (p.s. do in them in order for a nice mini practice to start or end your day)!
Waiting for baby to arrive can be hard, waiting for baby to arrive after we've passed our due date can be even harder. I always like to tell students to think about it as a "due month" rather than a "due date." Anywhere from three weeks before to two weeks after your due date baby can arrive. This can take some of the pressure off that magical due date (on which only about 1% of babies are actually born!). With that in mind, once we pass our due date our care providers may start to encourage us to do things to get labor going. There's tons of tips and tricks out there but here are 3 quick things you can do that can help baby drop into position if that's what is keeping labor from starting.
Many mamas come to yoga for the first time during their pregnancy. Yoga is recommended by a care provider or a friend as a way to address some of the common discomforts that go along with inhabiting a pregnant body. It can also provide much needed mind-body practices that can help address stress and anxiety and potentially prepare one for childbirth. There are many folks though who have had a regular yoga practice up until the point of their pregnancy and want to continue doing their regular yoga classes. My advice? Definitely check out a prenatal yoga class or pregnancy yoga videos online this will give you an idea of what you can and can't do. And will also give you inspiration for modifications when you're in a class that is doing something not recommended for the pregnancy body. There are some general guidelines you can keep in mind in your practice:
Wisdom and insight with a dash of humor to help guide you on your journey through motherhood.