Prenatal movement is equally necessary for a healthy birth as nutrition. Unfortunately, chiropractic care has been touted as the supreme fix for prenatal discomfort. While chiropractic care can certainly have its benefits and uses for pregnancy, it is often a result of poor movement practices that cause the misalignment in the first place and without fixing these movement practices, the return to chiro appointments will be regular. Here are 5 Must-do Prenatal Movements to add into your daily movement-based lifestyle.
Walking in Pregnancy
Walking in pregnancy is by far the most important prenatal movement that should be a significant part of your lifestyle. An average of 3-10 miles a day of walking (though not at one time) is historically supportive for a healthy life including birth preparation, lower cancer risks than non-movers, and decreased uterine (menstrual) discomfort. Walking moves the pelvis in a way that helps to support baby in a biologically desired position and also helps to provide valuable nutrients to the pelvis and digestive system. Walking any amount more than you already do (if you're not in that average 3-10 miles per day range) is beneficial. Work up to 1-3 miles per day, on average. You would likely also benefit from a visit to a physical therapist (find one that is Nutritious Movement Certified or generally uses natural movements as a basis for therapy) for guidance on gait patterns and proper alignment so that your walking is overall beneficial.
Unless you're walking barefoot in the woods most of the day on all sorts of terrain, your feet and legs can be a little stiff. Furthermore, if you have any rise on the heels of your shoes at all, your calves are shortening and subsequently reaching your pelvis and back causing misalignment which may contribute to longer more intense labor. Calf stretches as a prenatal movement, or any time, help to elongate the muscles, but these have to be done on top of a movement-based lifestyle. Calf stretches can be done any time. Use rolled up towels or yoga mats, or half domes and place them at your sinks, your stove, your tables, your TV - wherever you find some down-time. Be sure to rotate between multiple areas of calf and foot stretches for diversity.
If sitting exceeds any other prenatal movement or non-movement activity of your life by any amount, then your legs, pelvis, and back are reducing in length, tightening, and unable to be as mobile as birth will desire. The pelvis helps connect the top of the body to the bottom of the body through muscles, ligaments, and various tissue. Having a mobile pelvis enables baby more of an ability to move throughout pregnancy, labor, and birth. Have a partner hold your ankle and push to the point of stretching, but not pain. Hold this for 30-60 seconds and then go a little deeper. If you don't have someone available, grab a towel or yoga strap to hold this stretch. Sit on the floor without your legs crossed, alternate legs. You can notice tightness if your pelvis has to tuck in this position or your thighs come off the ground. Work on other stretching and work into sitting in this position without tucking. Scoot your bum up against a wall and lift your feet in the air; hang out and read a good book. While these positions may not be suitable for all stages of pregnancy, there are many ways of incorporating movement into your life for a more mobile pelvis.
Squatting was once a crucial part of our daily gathering lifestyle. We also squatted to eliminate which helped to loosen the tissue surrounding the pelvis. Squatting is a significant birthing position for many women that instinctively choose their own birthing position. The issue is, we don't squat enough and our often sitting-based (rather, lack of movement based) lifestyles don't promote pelvic mobility. Squatting daily as a form of natural prenatal movement whenever you need to get up and down out of bed, off the floor during down time, to get pots and pans...etc., increases the natural mobility of the pelvis allow better movement for baby. Adding in a few extra squatting sessions - not as an exercise, but as a stretch - further helps to counterbalance work needs and lifestyle choices. Be sure to squat with your knees close to vertical and keep a curve in the spine. Grab a partner and have them support you as you pull your pelvis backwards and down into a squatting position just enough to keep your shins vertical and not tuck your pelvis. Keep your toes pointing forward while you do this, too. Hold that for 15-20 seconds at a time. Butt tucking motions are counter productive to a squat. By the way, relax on the kegels a bit... literally. Tightness is one thing that is common in a sitting based lifestyle. We need more movement, stretching, and flexibility.
Sitz Bone Awareness
Any time you're sitting, be up on your sitz bones (and for the sake of knowledge sharing, these are actually your ischial tuberosities, not your sitz bones... but that's the common term that is used so we're going to call them sitz bones here for ease of understanding). You can see the lack of space baby has in the first photo with a tucked pelvis. You can see the mobile sacrum and increased space for baby with the untucked pelvis of the second photo when sitting up on the sitz bones. These are the bony protuberances at the bottom of the pelvis. Being aware of their location will enable you to sit up (right now as you're reading this) any time you find yourself in a sitting position. Remember, though, that sitting shouldn't be a position that happens more than other positions - but you should be aware of how you're sitting when it does happens. No laying back on the couch, slouching at dinner, or bucket seats in the car (add a puff of air to a pool ring to sit on in the car). Even if you're sitting on a birth ball (physical therapy ball), you need to be up on your sitz bones with a curve in your back (but not over arching and sticking your ribs out). Keep your knees below your hips. A nice comfortable position to align the spine and pelvis when needed. Just remember to take change positions throughout the day (every 15 minutes) and take regular movement breaks (15 minutes every hour). If you haven't put two and two together yet, you can see how a "pushing" position of being in any way other then up off your bum and forward leaning or squatting decreases room for the baby as well.
What prenatal movement do you like to add into your movement-based pregnancy?