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Muscles, bones and joints

Joint stability and therefore muscle action are altered during pregnancy.  Relaxin softens the ligaments and cartilage which means joints are less stable and more prone to injury.  These changes and weight gain can and weight change.

Anatomic and physiological changes during pregnancy have the potential to affect your muscles and bones both at rest and during exercise.

One of the most obvious is weight gain.   Aerobic exercise can however keep this weight gain under a certain amount of control providing excess calories are not consumed!  Babies born to exercising mothers often have a slightly lower body fat percentage – almost as if the baby is undergoing an aerobic training effect!

The increased weight pregnancy may significantly increase the forces across joints for example the hips and knees by as much as 100% during weight-bearing activities like running.  These large forces may cause discomfort to normal joint and increase damage to arthritic or previously unstable joints.  In Pilates however we do not use any impact moves, so the likelihood of those forces being exerted is minimal.

Because of anatomical and therefore postural changes to your centre of gravity you might develop pain and discomfort around your joints – back, hips and pelvis.

  • Lordosis – an exaggerated curve in your lower back, which can contribute to the high prevalence (50%) of lower back pain in pregnant women.  Back pain can be categorised in three ways:
    1. Lumbar pain stemming from multiple sites including the facet joints
    2. The paraspinal muscles
    3. The supporting ligaments

Your upper back muscles may become weak and which leads to a round-shouldered appearance.  You will notice this if you chin pokes forward and you feel tension around your upper back and around the neck.  The size of the breasts can also have an effect on this type of posture.

Sacroiliac pain from widening of the pubis symphysis from its normal 0.5mm to approximately 1.2mm and unstable sacroiliac joints.

Joints can become unstable due to the release of hormones, and along with the changes in your centre of gravity and weight distribution can contribute to incorrect posture.  You may notice that your balance is less stable and you may need support during some of the exercises you do.

Ligaments and tendons are also affected with the release of various hormones – as discussed above.

Another common postural change is when the pelvis is pushed forwards, working the ligaments instead of the muscles to maintain an upright position – often called a ‘swayback’ position.  With the body in this position it increases its chances of headaches, muscle spasm and back/headaches.
As the body alters so does the centre of gravity and weight distribution.  In pregnancy the joints need special care, avoid:
  • exercises that go beyond the normal range of movement
  • stretches that increase flexibility
  • exercising in unstable (off-balance) positions
  • over use of one side of the body
  • standing for long periods of time.

Round and broad ligaments 

These ligaments support the weight of the uterus.  The round ligaments are situated on either side of the uterus and attach to the front of the pelvis and the broad ligaments attach to the lumbar spine and the uterus sac.

As baby grows this place the ligaments under greater stress and there may be some discomfort or pain when performing any activity.  Pain maybe felt around the groin area and on either side or in the lower abdomen.  The incrased weight in the uterus can pull on the broad ligaments and cause pain  in te the lumbar spien and sacral iliac ara.

Regular core stability – like Pilates! can help prevent the pelvis moving too far out of positions an over stretching of the broad ligaments.  The wrong type of exercise can exacerbate any problems.

Balance and centre of gravity

You bump is growing and getting bigger, your joints are looser and your balance (centre of gravity) has changed.  All this means your body will not be as stable as is was pre-pregnancy.  Any movements you do will need to take into consideration your new balance problems.

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