Maintaining Proper Body Mechanics During Pregnancy
The way you use the different parts of your body to move, as well as to lift, hold, and carry things, is called body mechanics. Having proper body mechanics is important during pregnancy to help minimize discomforts as your body gets larger. The first step in achieving proper body mechanics is maintaining good posture. Good posture is essential throughout pregnancy because your center of gravity changes. You will be tempted to compensate for the change by slumping. Instead, you should maintain the same good posture you had before becoming pregnant. Standing erect lessens back discomfort, improves digestion, and enhances body image.
While standing, the way you hold your head influences the position of the rest of your body. If you let your head hang forward, your body will droop like a wilted flower. Instead, think tall! Hold your head up, with your chin tucked in and your neck straight. Lift your shoulders up and pull them back. This position will keep you from cramping your rib cage, which can make breathing difficult and possibly cause indigestion.
Pay special attention to your pelvic area, which contains the weight of the growing baby. Think of your pelvis as a bowl filled with liquid. To prevent the liquid from spilling out, tilt the “bowl” back by tightening your abdominal muscles and tucking your buttocks under. By keeping the pelvis tilted back, you can prevent excess tension in the muscles of your lower back. You can maintain proper pelvic alignment by bending your knees slightly and keeping your body weight over your feet. Place your body weight on the center of each foot, never on the inside. If you stand for long periods, put one food on a small stool to flex the hip.
While sitting in a chair, use the back of the chair as a guide to sit up straight. Do not slump forward. Straight-back chairs are preferable over cushioned chairs during pregnancy for this reason. Place a pillow behind your neck or the small of your back to increase your comfort. Rest the entire length of your thigh on the seat of the chair. The chair seat should be high enough for you to keep your knees even with your hips.
Tailor sitting, or sitting Indian style, is an excellent position during pregnancy. It is comfortable and improves the circulation in the legs while stretching and increasing the flexibility of the inner thigh muscles. Sit this way whenever possible—for example, when you watch television, read the newspaper, fold cloths, or peel potatoes. If your legs become tired, stretch them out in front of you.
The supine position, or lying flat on your back, for extended periods of time is not recommended after the first trimester. This position puts the increasing weight of the baby and uterus on your major vessels, causing them to be compressed. This can lower your blood pressure, thereby reducing the amount of blood traveling to the placenta and the baby. If you must lie on your back (during an examination, for example), modify the position by placing a pillow in the small of your back for support and bending your knees. Refrain from doing exercises that require you to lie on your back.
Side-lying is a position that takes the weight of the baby off your back and groin, and allows the joints to be flexed loosely. A pillow placed lengthwise between your legs will make it easier for you to relax. Position another pillow under your abdomen to take the strain off your lower back. You may feel comfortable lying further over on your abdomen, in a three-quarter position. Place your lower arm behind your back and position your upper arm and leg forward, supported by pillows.
To get up from a supine position, first roll onto your side and then push yourself to a sitting position with your arms. If you are in bed, swing your legs over the side of the bed. Be careful not to twist your body as you get up. This technique will help you to avoid strain to both your back and abdominal muscles.
When walking, remember all the points of correct posture described previously. Bring your legs straight forward from the hip. Do not swing them sideways in a “waddle”. Be careful when climbing stairs. Lift your body up using your legs, rather than pulling yourself up with your arms. Lean slightly forward as you go up, placing your foot completely on each step. During your postpartum period, climb steps slowly, tightening your abdominal and pelvic floor muscles, and let your leg muscles do the work.
Many women, especially those with small children or toddlers, find that some lifting is necessary during pregnancy. Incorrect lifting can put excessive strain on the back and the pelvic floor. Therefore, it is important to learn to lift correctly.
Avoid lifting heavy objects. Lift only what you can lift easily with one arm. To lift, get close to the object and lower yourself into a squat, bending at the knees, not at the waist. Keep your feet parallel and your back straight, and as you lift the object, straighten your legs without twisting your body. An alternate method is to place one foot in front of the other and slowly lower yourself to one knee. Lift the object by pushing yourself up with your rear foot, keeping your back straight.
A small child can climb onto a stool or chair, enabling you to lift him or her without straining your back.