Core Fitness in the Childbearing Years
For women of childbearing age it’s important to be healthy and fit, not just for overall aesthetics and quality of life reasons, but because it can have an impact on the health and comfort of any pregnancies as well.
Women need to spend extra attention focusing on their core muscles as these are the most important for proper carriage and alignment in pregnancy. A weak core can mean undue hardship and pain on a pregnant mother, as well as complications and challenges during delivery – possibly even necessitating her to labor on her back – a compromised and less efficient position compared to laboring upright and in collaboration with gravity.
There are illustrated and explained pregnancy exercises in the book Active Birth by Janet Balakas that include modified yoga movements and other core-stabilizing routines to keep fit and toned in pregnancy, adjust the direction of the baby, and prime her for decent into the pelvic area.
Additionally, some women may benefit from belly wrapping in pregnancy to alleviate back pain and other hip and joint pain. The tightness and lifting of a proper belly wrap can give much relief to mothers. Wrapping can even cause labor to start within a few days, simply because the body recognizes that baby has moved into the optimal position for delivery.
During labor women may find that utilizing a Mexican rebozo – a long fold of fabric – as a belly supporter, can relieve some pressure and pain and also give the belly the extra help and lift it needs. Working with a husband, boyfriend, other birth partner, or professional birth assistant and utilizing a rebozo for pain relief in the midsection during active labor, can be a blessing.
The muscles of the pelvic floor, when used in conjunction with the abdominal muscles, all help to eject the infant in a controlled and orchestrated way. During labor the abdominal muscles and uterus contract to push the baby out, while the pelvic floor acts as a stopper, ensuring that the baby comes out relatively slow and controlled to minimize any complications and damage from shoots out at 100mph. Ensuring ahead of time that all of these muscles are as fit as possible makes the process easier and safe for mother and child.
After the child is born mothers get straight into belly binding in some cultures, which is picking up steam in the West as well. Belly binding can help with pelvic support, assist in knitting the abs back together, and help avoid diastasis recti with subsequent pregnancies.
Diastasis recti, for those unfamiliar, is a thinning of the abdominal muscles that creates less support for the internal organs and also back pain in some cases. Two-thirds of mothers have this muscle injury and it is even more common in women who have given birth multiple times. It is often overlooked and undiagnosed by medical professionals, unfortunately because not acknowledging the injury and modifying common abdominal exercises can actually make it worse.
Diastasis Recti Resources
Paid courses and programs for those with diastasis recti are available (fit2be.us, TheTummyTeam.com, or programs promoting the “Tupler Technique.”) But there is also a wealth of free information, tutorials, and videos that explain how to modify your movements and start your healing journey. To learn more about diastasis recti, including how to check yourself at home and adapt your exercise routine and daily activities, start by viewing these free videos:
Once you’ve made it through the childbearing years and healed any muscles injuries, you may want to consider waist trainers, bands, bodysuits, shapers, or corsets to tighten up and reshape any trouble areas. As we live through and heal from our childbearing years, there are many ways to make the journey as safe, easy, and uncomplicated as possible: it’s fantastic that we have the knowledge, and tools, at our fingertips.
With some informed decisions and active planning and participation in easing the transitions from stage to stage, we can gain control over our waists and abs, and come out of our childbearing years stronger and more vibrant than ever before.