I don’t know about you, but when I’m tending to the needs of my son, I’m not often thinking about my posture. That is, until I’m experiencing some sort of pain or discomfort.
I know that posture is important and in my pre-motherhood days I was fairly good at maintaining good posture (well, except for the fact that I used to insist on wearing stilettos everyday to work, even when I was standing all day).
But motherhood brings with it a whole lot of activities and changes that can lend themselves to poor posture if we’re not conscious of how we are using our bodies. Pregnancy, breastfeeding, carrying super heavy bags filled to the brim with children’s things, baby wearing, picking up and carrying children (often favouring one side, or involving twisting), pushing prams, constantly bending down to pick up toys or to talk to our children and cradling the phone between your ear and shoulder so you can multitask, are all opportunities for our posture to be compromised. Of course, long periods of looking down at our phones and computers can also cause postural problems.
Poor posture can cause headaches, back and neck pain, stiffness, fatigue and a host of other issues, both in the short and longer term. Many mums don’t realise how serious the impact of poor posture can be, if left unchecked. Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can take to improve your posture, starting right now!
Since good posture is a daily challenge in motherhood, I invited Kylee Todd, from Foxfit PT, to share her expertise and advice on why it’s so important to look after our posture and what we can do to improve it. Kylee is particularly passionate about helping mums understand the impact of having children on their bodies and helping them develop strong functional bodies.
Here’s what Kylee wanted us to know about how and why we should improve our posture:
Why is posture so important to our health and wellbeing?
There are a host of reasons why posture is important for our physical and emotional wellbeing. When thinking about posture, it’s important to remember we are really talking about your alignment. Poor alignment can contribute to a faulty breathing pattern, pelvic floor dysfunction, and compression of internal organs which can result in a prolapse. Another significant issue is the how poor posture can impact on blood flow and affect energy levels which can result in poor concentration and memory function. These type of issues can leave you feeling lethargic and impact on your confidence, self-esteem, and overall wellbeing.
How does pregnancy affect posture and how long does this effect last after giving birth?
Pregnancy impacts on posture through the significant weakening of certain muscles such as the abdominals, glutes, upper back, hamstrings, neck, and the pelvic floor. Pregnancy can cause tightness in other muscles also, including the hips, lower back the chest muscles and quads. The baby’s weight can cause the lower back to sway as the centre of gravity shifts, impacting on your body’s alignment. It is now widely recognised that strength training during pregnancy with appropriate modifications provides huge benefits.
If alignment problems are not detected and corrected after having a baby, they can keep causing problems indefinitely.
If you stretch the muscles that are tight and strengthen the muscles that are weak during pregnancy, you are setting yourself up for a better postpartum recovery and potentially lessening the likelihood of a diastasis (separation of the abdominal wall) back pain, incontinence, and a misaligned pelvis.
How do I know if I have a postural problem?
Look in the mirror and examine your posture.
Where is your ribcage in relation to your pelvis? Is your ribcage flaring out? Do you have an excessive sway in your lower back? Do your belly and bum stick out? Do you have rounded shoulders and a forward head posture? Do you have a tucked under bum? But mainly, are you carrying pain? These are all indications that you need to improve your posture.
What can I do to improve my posture?
Fortunately, there are several things that you can do to improve your posture.
1. Sit up straight
Slouching causes your diaphragm to compress. It weakens your upper body and your abdominal wall and can also cause headaches. Stack your ribcage directly over your pelvis. This is really important for re-establishing a neutral pelvis. Here’s how to stack your ribcage correctly:
2. Focus on using correct and appropriate movement across all your daily activities
Squatting, lunging and deadlifting are our primal movement patterns. If we aren’t moving in this way, what are we doing? We are arching our backs, which is putting our body out of neutral alignment, resulting in possible injuries. Mothers are constantly bending to extend on a daily basis, so incorporate movement that promotes strength, not injury and weakness.
Long periods of sitting at a desk, sitting in front of a computer, and on phones or tablets will wreak havoc on the spine. Aim to reduce time spent in these positions. If possible, try to stand as opposed to sitting at work and if you are carrying a baby or toddler, don’t let one hip dominant; shift sides.
3. Pectoralis stretch
Your pectoral muscles are located at the front of your chest and connect to your upper arm and shoulder. Tight pectoral muscles are a result of constant slouching caused by feeding and holding your baby or extended hours sitting behind a desk. To release the tension, you need to stretch these muscles. Here is a beautiful stretch and easy to do at home or work. You just need a wall. Give it a go!
Find a fitness professional that specialises in prenatal and postnatal training. Work on releasing what is tight first, before strengthening what is weak. Strong glutes will assist in holding the pelvis in a more neutral position, as well as contributing to a stronger pelvis.
What are some other benefits of correcting your alignment / posture?
Optimal alignment (posture) has so many benefits to your body that includes more strength and energy, and being pain-free. Here are some examples:
Effective use of your muscles, which assists in the prevention of muscle fatigue.
Relief from symptoms of IBS, constipation, and heartburn, as poor alignment impacts on digestive functions.
Decrease in abnormal wear on joint surfaces to help prevent musculoskeletal diseases, such as arthritis.
Proper functioning of the abdominal wall. This can help get rid of the poochy belly that many mothers can never lose.
Release of hunched shoulders, which can improve your health and emotional wellbeing, helping you feel confident with your body.
A few last thoughts…
I believe that there is a significant lack of postpartum care in Australia. Many mothers have difficulty in getting individualised information on postnatal symptom management; this was my own experience after having three children. As new mothers, we are simply not been given to tools and resources on how to heal; physically and emotionally. We are often left second-guessing ourselves about what is appropriate and what is not. Many women present with alignment issues after having a baby, and not just postnatally, but many years down the track, and left unchecked, this can keep causing problems indefinitely.
I feel that the 6 week check up with the doctor is where many problems start. We aren’t given a proper physical check-up and the doctor often gives the new mum the green light for exercise. Many mothers place themselves under pressure to lose their baby weight (social media has a massive impact on this), so quite often, the new mum continues her pre-pregnancy Bootcamp class and pre-baby exercising. This often results in injury and at worst, can cause a prolapse.
Optimal alignment is crucial to your initial postnatal recovery and has so many ongoing positive benefits. If you want to regain strength and vitality; your alignment is where you need to begin.
About Kylee Todd
Kylee is a successful personal trainer who specialises in fit-for-purpose movement, nutrition and lifestyle strategies for women. She is experienced in postnatal recovery that assists all mothers in regaining their pre-baby health, strength, vitality and confidence.
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