Studies suggest that up to 90 per cent of expectant mothers will experience low back and/or pelvic pain related to their pregnancy. Weight gain during pregnancy can also place additional stress on your hips, feet, ankles and knees. And this pain contributes to other problems. It can disturb your sleep, increase your use of pain medication and disrupt your daily activities. Sometimes just standing for half an hour can be painful.

As your baby grows, your abdominal muscles become stretched and may not be able to provide as much support to your pelvis and spine as ideal. If you’re an expectant mother, you can perform simple core strengthening activities to help reduce the stress on your back and prevent low back pain, as well as other aches. 

Please note: When performing any of the following exercises, avoid any that require you to lay flat on your back once you’ve reached your third month of pregnancy. 


Getting Started

Abdominal Bracing

This exercise helps you to learn how to maintain mild abdominal contractions to support your lumbar spine. To correctly brace, try to contract your abdominal muscles, without holding your breath. You should be able to breathe evenly while bracing.

  • Lie on your back with your spine in a neutral position. (Neutral means maintaining the natural curve in your spine.)
  • Keeping this position, concentrate on contracting your abdominal muscles without ‘drawing in.’
    • Important: this exercise involves hardening or tightening your muscles, not hollowing your abdominal area.
  • Hold this position for five to ten seconds. Repeat three to five times. Perform one to three sets.

Once mastered, use this technique to protect your spine, enhance all core stability exercises and support daily activities, such as lifting your baby.


Exercise moves

Building a strong core means regularly doing exercises that target your abdominal, hip and back muscles. The following three exercises will help keep your core muscles strong:

Pelvic Tilt

  • Starting position:

    • This can be done sitting, standing, lying on your back or on all fours. 
    • Use your abdominal muscles to slowly move your pelvis.
  • The move: 

    • Bring your pubic bone forward, tucking your buttocks in with a ‘scooping’ motion. Hold for two to three seconds. 
    • Rock your pelvis in the opposite direction to arch your lower back and direct your buttocks out. 
    • Identify a pain-free range of motion and work within that range.
  • Repetitions: Repeat three to ten times. Gradually work up to three sets. 
  • Rest for 30 to 60 seconds between sets.

 

Arm Extension

  • Starting position:

    •  Kneel down on your hands and knees. Keep your spine in a neutral position and maintain an abdominal brace (by tightening your stomach and buttock muscles).
  • The move: 

    • Extend one arm out in front, as much as you can. Even a little way makes a difference. The goal is to make your arm parallel with the floor. Be sure to keep the rest of your body stable.
    • Hold for two to three seconds. Return to starting position and switch sides.
  • Repetitions: Repeat three to ten times. Gradually work up to three sets. 
  • Rest for 30 to 60 seconds between sets.

 

Leg Extension

  • Starting position: 

    • Kneel down on your hands and knees. Keep your spine in a neutral position and maintain an abdominal brace (by tightening your stomach and buttock muscles.)
  • The move:

    •  Extend one leg behind as much as you can. Even a little way makes a difference. Be sure to keep your upper body stable. Hold for two to three seconds.
    • Return to the starting position and switch sides
  • Repetitions: Repeat three to ten times. Gradually work up to three sets.
  • Rest for 30 to 60 seconds between sets.

For more great stretches for pregnancy see these nine pregnancy stretches for the whole body.


Maintaining Good Posture During Pregnancy:

  • As your weight increases and shifts to the front of your body, you’ll likely develop a tendency to slouch forward and round your shoulders.
  • These changes can put additional stress on the joints of your spine and muscles in the shoulders, mid to upper back and neck.
  • Remember to keep your shoulders ‘down and back’ and your chin slightly tucked.

Do exercises to stretch the front of your shoulders and chest. These exercises will strengthen your chest and the muscles between your shoulder blades.


After your baby arrives:

  • When carrying your child, hold them upright against your chest. Avoid carrying your child on your hip, as this position will cause a postural imbalance that can lead to low back pain over time.
  • Always sit in a chair with back support when feeding your baby. Avoid leaning forward to reach your child’s mouth, as this will strain your back. Use pillows and blankets to support your baby’s position.
  • To safely lift your child, put your feet shoulder-width apart, keep your back completely straight and bend your knees. Lift with both arms and use your thigh muscles.
  • Take time to do some quick stretching when your baby is napping. Ten minutes a day can help raise your energy level and keep you flexible while avoiding aches and pains.

There is no time for back pain in parenthood. A chiropractor can help.

To find a chiropractor near you, use the chiropractor locator on our website. In Ontario, you can visit a chiropractor without a referral from a doctor, nurse practitioner or other health care professional. If you already have a chiropractor and/or another health care professional, join our Partnership4BetterHealth online patient advisory community. Then, you can share your ideas on how to enhance chiropractic services and make a positive impact on our health care system. It’s confidential, free, and always your choice to participate.