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Core and Pelvic Floor in Pregnancy: What is it and Why is it important?


Its common knowledge that a woman's body undergoes massive changes during pregnancy.


Some of these physical changes in the abdominal area are very much visible, such as an expanding belly.


The growing uterus stretches the muscles in the abdomen which leads to separation of these muscles (rectus abdominis), and it makes them less effective.


As your belly grows, you whole body begins to reposition forward. This leads to your pelvis also tilting forward while the lower back flexes, increasing the arch of the sternum.


All the muscles in your abdomen stretch, reducing the overall muscle support to the middle section of your body..


Your body tries to find ways to make up for the decreased support to the core by utilizing your back muscles, which can cause your lower back become tense, tired, and sore.


This post will show you the importance of core strengthening and the bad effects of having a weak core. That way you will be able to take appropriate action to safeguard yourself.


I'll also share some very basic but highly effective techniques which can be considered as the first steps.


But first, let's talk about what exactly is core and why is it important.



What exactly is Core and Pelvic Floor?

Disclaimer: The image is for illustration only and not an actual representation.



CORE

The core is broadly considered to be the torso. Pelvic Floor muscles are a part of the core.


Core is a group of muscles that stabilises and controls the pelvis and spine (and therefore influences the legs and upper body). Our core is literally our body’s center. It is the platform off of which we generate power in our limbs and perform all of our distal movements.


Imagine a cylinder, with the diaphragm on top, the pelvic floor at the bottom, and the other muscles wrapping around the middle in various directions. I am going to put in a little jargon here because I think its necessary.


Our core is made up of a few layers of muscle.


It’s the inner-most layer- the so-called inner core canister, that is responsible for stabilizing our spine and torso, controlling continence and supporting our pelvic organs.


During pregnancy, these muscles are stretched and the coordination between them is disrupted.


Some of the main muscles which make up the core are:

- the rectus abdominis (your six-pack abs) at the front

- the internal and external obliques on the sides

- the transversus abdominis (the deepest abdominal muscle that wraps around your midsection horizontally)

- the erector spinae (the rope-like muscles next to your spine)

- the multifidus (a very deep muscle that runs along your spine)

- the quadratus lumborum (another deep muscle in your lower back, above your hips)

- the diaphragm (this breathing muscle is the top, or the roof, of your core)

- the pelvic floor muscles (these make up the bottom, or floor, of your core)



Why is Core important during Pregnancy?



Strong core is extremely important, not only during pregnancy but throughout our lifespan.


The inner core works to stabilize our bodies in several planes of motion. Front to back, side to side and against rotation. It can also drive us into flexion at the hips, side bends and rotation.


Developing and maintaining strong core muscles will keep you more comfortable during your pregnancy by allowing you to carry your baby with greater ease. Your core supports your back, allowing you to maintain a correct posture and avoid the arching, rounding and straining that can cause persistent pain.


In-fact, having strong abdominal muscles before getting pregnant can help mothers-to-be have fewer back issues, have an easier time pushing during childbirth, and have a quicker recovery after giving birth.



A strong core is key to achieving the winning trifecta of a pain-free back, easier labour, and a speedier postpartum recovery.


Having a weak core will mean that the rest of your muscles and body will have to work harder to support your body weight, putting additional strain on them, often leading to muscle strains and back discomfort.


Good posture helps reduce pressure and strain on the spine and enables you to breathe more deeply, assisting oxygen to pass to your muscles more easily and allowing them to contract more effectively.


Maintaining a strong core helps maintain proper body alignment, reduces back pain or discomfort, and can boost your overall workout output.

Strong Core = Better Childbirth + Better Recovery


Here are 7 reasons why you need a Strong Core

  1. Your core literally holds your baby in place! Your deep core muscles wrap around the baby at the front and stretch around the back. Your pelvic floor supports the weight of the growing baby.

  2. Having a strong core will reduce the risk of Diastasis Recti

  3. Improves pelvic floor strength and minimises risk of incontinence

  4. Decreases the risk of pelvic organ prolapse

  5. Helps with the delivery

  6. Helps in recovery during your Postpartum Period

  7. Reduced lower back pain



Diaphragmatic Breathing - the most simple and effective Core Exercise for Pregnancy and Postpartum



And sadly, we all do it WRONG!


What is the right way of Breathing?

On inhale, the diaphragm contracts downward and the pelvic floor and transverse abdominals reflexively lengthen (pelvic floor releases slightly down, transverse abs release slightly outwards).


On exhale, the reverse occurs: The diaphragm contracts upwards, the pelvic floor and transverse abdominals recoil and contract upward and inward, respectively.


If you are breathing in the right way, your pelvic floor and innermost abs are getting a workout on every exhale. Isn't this cool?

During pregnancy, the most fundamental core exercise, and pre-requisite to all higher level exercises, is Diaphragmatic Breathing. This breath is the tool that allows you to manage the pressure generated in your abdomen during exertion.



How to perform Diaphragmatic Breathing?

When you first learn the diaphragmatic breathing technique, it may be easier for you to follow the instructions lying down.

But if you are pregnant then do not try the lying down approach, go for the sitting one.


  • Lie on your back on a flat surface or in bed, with your knees bent and your head supported. You can use a pillow under your knees to support your legs.

  • Place one hand on your upper chest and the other just below your rib cage. This will allow you to feel your diaphragm move as you breathe.

  • Breathe in slowly through your nose so that your stomach moves out, causing your hand to rise. The hand on your chest should remain as still as possible.

  • Tighten your stomach muscles, so that your stomach moves in, causing your hand to lower as you exhale through pursed lips. The hand on your upper chest should remain as still as possible.



Diaphragmatic breathing technique (sitting)

  • Sit comfortably, with your knees bent and your shoulders, head and neck relaxed.

  • Place one hand on your upper chest and the other just below your rib cage. This will allow you to feel your diaphragm move as you breathe.

  • Breathe in slowly through your nose so that your stomach moves out against your hand. The hand on your chest should remain as still as possible.

  • Tighten your stomach muscles, so that your stomach moves back in, as you exhale through pursed lips. The hand on your upper chest must remain as still as possible.

Pregnancy often throws a wrench in the coordination and reflexive response of your core, which is why core training in pregnancy and postpartum is so essential to maintain and rebuild strength in these muscles.

How often to practice diaphragmatic breathing exercises?

At first, practice this exercise for 5 to 10 minutes about three to four times per day. You can gradually increase the amount of time you spend doing this exercise.

Sources

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