The muscle strains of pregnancy are very real and can be more than just a nuisance.
The average weight gain of 25 to 35 pounds, combined with the increased stress placed
on the body by the baby, may result in severe discomfort. Studies have found that about
half of all expectant mothers will develop low-back pain at some point during their
pregnancies. 1-3 This is especially true during late pregnancy, when the baby's head
presses down on a woman's back, legs, and buttocks, irritating her sciatic nerve. And for
those who already suffer from low-back pain, the problem can become even worse.
During pregnancy, a woman's center of gravity almost immediately begins to shift
forward to the front of her pelvis. Although a woman's sacrum-or posterior section of the
pelvis-has enough depth to enable her to carry a baby, the displaced weight still
increases the stress on her joints. As the baby grows in size, the woman's weight is
projected even farther forward, and the curvature of her lower back is increased, placing
extra stress on the spinal disks. In compensation, the normal curvature of the upper
spine increases, as well.
The American Chirorpractic Association recommends the following tips for pregnant
Safe exercise during pregnancy can help strengthen your muscles and prevent
discomfort. Try exercising at least three times a week, gently stretching before
and after exercise. If you weren't active before your pregnancy, check with your
doctor before starting or continuing any exercise.
Walking, swimming, and stationary cycling are relatively safe cardiovascular
exercises for pregnant women because they do not require jerking or bouncing
movements. Jogging can be safe for women who were avid runners before
becoming pregnant-if done carefully and under a doctor's supervision.
Your heart rate should not exceed 140 beats per minute during exercise.
Strenuous activity should last no more than 15 minutes at a time.
Stop your exercise routine immediately if you notice any unusual symptoms,
such as vaginal bleeding, dizziness, nausea, weakness, blurred vision, increased
swelling, or heart palpitations.
Health and Safety
Wear flat, sensible shoes. High or chunky heels can exacerbate postural
imbalances and make you less steady on your feet.
When picking up children, bend from the knees, not the waist. And never turn
your head when you lift. Avoid picking up heavy objects, if possible.
Pregnancy Ergonomics: Your Bed and Desk
Sleep on your side with a pillow between your knees to take pressure off your
lower back. Full-length "body pillows" or "pregnancy wedges" may be helpful.
Lying on your left side allows unobstructed blood flow and helps your kidneys
flush waste from your body.
If you have to sit at a computer for long hours, make your workstation
ergonomically correct. Position the computer monitor so the top of the screen is
at or below your eye level, and place your feet on a small footrest to take
pressure off your legs and feet. Take periodic breaks every 30 minutes with a
quick walk around the office.
How Can Your Doctor of Chiropractic Help?
Many pregnant women have found that chiropractic adjustments provide relief from the
increased low-back pain brought on by pregnancy. Chiropractic is safe for the pregnant
woman and her baby and can be especially attractive to those who are trying to avoid
medications in treating their back pain. Doctors of chiropractic can also offer nutrition,
ergonomic, and exercise advice to help a woman enjoy a healthy pregnancy.
Chiropractic care can also help after childbirth. In the eight weeks following labor and
delivery, the ligaments that loosened during pregnancy begin to tighten up again. Ideally,
joint problems brought on during pregnancy from improper lifting or reaching should be
treated before the ligaments return to their pre-pregnancy state-to prevent muscle
tension, headaches, rib discomfort, and shoulder problems.