Have you ever heard of “mom posture?” It’s a term used to describe slouched, rounded shoulders and a protruding abdomen (or a pelvic tilt). It can happen to anyone, but people who have given birth are especially susceptible.
“There are three curves in the spine: the neck curves inward, the upper back curves outward and the lower back curves inward,” says Aparna Rajagopal, PT, MHS, a physical therapist at Henry Ford Health. “These curves normally balance each other out. But as pregnancy progresses, the lower-back curve can flatten.”
Your gait might also change during pregnancy, which can affect posture: your feet may grow wider and you may experience an increase in side-to-side movements as you walk. “All of these changes occur so you can maintain your balance while accommodating for increased weight at the front of your body, especially during the third trimester,” says Rajagopal. After giving birth, your pelvic floor muscles may have undergone changes—as they’ve just accommodated for a growing baby—and this can also cause postural changes.
Tips To Straightening Your Posture After Baby
While some people naturally regain their former posture around six weeks postpartum, others don’t. If you’re not mindful about how you carry yourself (for example, while breastfeeding and lifting the baby) you can exacerbate the issue. Rajagopal says to refrain from intense activity for the first six weeks after baby. Take it easy and let your body heal. Here's what she recommends:
- Engage in gentle activation exercises. “Walking and simple stretches will get those abdominal muscles going—it kind of wakes them up after being stretched out,” says Rajagopal. “But get the go-ahead from your physician beforehand.”
- Ensure you’re comfortable while breastfeeding. “Make sure your back is well supported,” says Rajagopal. “There are multiple breastfeeding positions that a lactation consultant can help you with, such as a football hold—especially beneficial if you’re recovering from a C-section—or a side lying position, which takes pressure off the pelvic region.”
- Be mindful of how you’re lifting the baby. When carrying the baby from a bassinet or changing table, get as close to the surface as you can. Use your legs to lift. “Give a small exhale while you lift,” Rajagopal adds. “It may help engage your pelvic floor. Also: I often see moms bending over and reaching into the car when getting the car seat out. Try to put one knee into the car—prop your leg there—so that you are closer when getting the car seat in and out.”
- Aim to be in shape before pregnancy. The ideal scenario is to start a fitness routine that includes core strengthening before pregnancy so you can continue it throughout. (It's not ideal to begin a fitness regimen during pregnancy.) "If your body is in a better place before pregnancy, it is much easier to recover post-birth,” says Rajagopal. “If you have poor posture and poor pelvic floor strength to begin with, pregnancy may accentuate those issues and it may be harder for you to recover."
It's normal to experience leakage of urine, back pain or pelvic soreness within the first six weeks postpartum. But if these issues are ongoing after six weeks, they likely signify that you may benefit from a physical therapist’s intervention. “You may need postural retraining,” says Rajagopal. "Therapy can reeducate those muscles, strengthen your core and straighten your posture.”
To learn more about postpartum physical therapy, visit henryford.com/services/rehabilitation/outpatient/physical-therapy or call (586) 285-3884.
Aparna Rajagopal, PT, MHS, WCS, PRPC, is a board-certified clinical specialist in women’s health physical therapy at Henry Ford Health. She is also certified in pelvic rehabilitation and has received advanced training in pregnancy and postpartum physical therapy. She sees patients at the Henry Ford Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine clinics in Clinton Township and Fraser.