is the most natural thing in the world, so it’s no surprise that the core muscles are well equipped to deal with the demands of an increasing baby bump. The main function of our abdominal muscles is to provide support for the lumbar spine and stabilise the joints of the pelvis. The deep abdominal muscles combine with the diaphragm and the pelvis floor to enclose the contents of our abdomen (the baby during pregnancy) creating a cylinder around the mid section.
A growing baby belly means the front muscles of the abdomen stretch and the pelvis begins to tip forward, altering the ability to stabilise the region. During pregnancy the body is flooded with the hormone relaxin, which means the muscles become more compliant to lengthening and stretching. Thus the abdominal cylinder can easily stretch in all directions. While the abs can stretch significantly, they typically do not tear. However, they can separate. Many women suffer this separation towards the end of their pregnancy. This separation is called Diastasis Recti. It does not cause a painful separation but it does compromise the structural integrity of the core.
The muscles of the core face their biggest challenge at the end of nine months, at the time when the baby exits out of the bottom of the abdominal cylinder through the pelvic floor. The core stability is further compromised. In case of a caesarean section, the weakened stability comes from the disruption of the abdominal wall through the surgical incision.
What can we do to prepare the core during pregnancy ?
While pregnancy is not the time to introduce strenuous new training programs, exercises to strengthen the core can be very advantageous. If you train your abs during pregnancy it can lessen the degree of abdominal wall separation. Core muscles include all of the muscles in the midsection.: the abdominals are a part of your core, as are your hips, your erectors (lower back) and even some interconnected muscles of the upper back.
During pregnancy, most women experience significant weakening of certain muscles, often due to stretching and hormonal changes that occur to prepare the body for the birthing process. The most commonly weakened/ stretched muscles are the i) Hamstrings (back of the thighs)
- ii) Gluteals (buttocks)
iii) Back and shoulders
- iv) And of course the abdomen
Thus the entire core gets weaker and not just the abdominals. When pregnant, focus on strengthening the pelvic floor and transverse abdominals both of which comprise the deeper core. Strengthening the lower abdominal muscles by adopting the pelvic tilt is beneficial. The improvement of the gluteus muscle tone is important as it supports the sacroiliac joint which can be put to test once the baby arrives. Body weight squats is a great exercise for this.
Why is core strength so important?
* it will help improve the posture
* it reduces lower back pain and achy pelvis
* it can lead to fewer complications during delivery
* can also provide stamina for a faster delivery
* increases the likelihood of a quick recovery post partum
In addition to all of these benefits, having supportive core muscles and a general high level of fitness has been shown to improve the health of the baby. What other reason do we need to invest some time in building up a strong core.