Deep Core Basics for A resilient Birth
The pregnant body goes through many changes, most of which it can absorb and respond to naturally. But as any parent who has gone through the birthing process will tell you, the aches and pains of pregnancy are unavoidable, can come on suddenly and be utterly debilitating at times.
The pregnant body expands into the world, and the layers of its tissues and bones reflect that expansion: the spine takes on more weight and starts to feel compressed; the womb grows upward into the diaphragm (ie, the breathing muscle), creating shortness of breath; the abdominals are stretched to their extreme, building up tension in the ribs and hips. The feet and calves are constantly tight.
And that’s just the first chapter… Layer in the physical demands of child birth and parenting, and the list of pains and limitations grows steadily.
Childbirth is a marathon. It is a year-long venture with effects that are long-lasting. Despite the common misconception, there is no “pre-pregnancy” body to obtain afterward. As your body expands and then draws inward again, a new identity emerges. You are not only getting to know your baby — you're getting to know yourself, anew.
While your baby grows, your body is adjusting ever so cleverly to the needs of your child. How your body adjusts is dependent on the ways you’ve moved your body up to this point. The shapes you regularly make or how much you've exposed yourself to endurance, strength, agility, and recovery will all have their effects on the ability of your tissue to expand as it needs. Likewise, these events will have an effect on your body’s ability to recover after childbirth.
These naturally-occurring symptoms aren’t life-threatening, but they are painful, and when ignored can get worse until becoming chronic.
A resilient deep core will allow more easeful movement throughout pregnancy and into the physical demands of parenting.
The good news: most of these common ailments, when treated, are easily alleviated.
The muscles of the deep core are the most important aspect of perinatal fitness. They are closest to the spine and internal organs, providing deep postural alignment and effortless strength. While pregnant, the deep core muscles work together to counteract the pressures of an expanding abdomen. They are the most affected part of the body, requiring enough elasticity to respond to a growing baby and enough tone to rebuild structural support postpartum.
Conventional perinatal practices do not usually include an education on how best to support the deep core. Not even OBGYNs have a complete understanding of how important movement is to the pregnant and postpartum body.
This is where I come in. I love to share what I know about the body’s innate ability to recover through pregnancy, birth and the postpartum period. As a holistic movement coach specializing in perinatal wellness, I believe the most empowering thing birthing parents can do is learn how to move in relationship to their body’s needs and desires. This practice builds confidence, strength and resilience — preparing them for childbirth while preparing their tissues for the recovery process ahead.
My upcoming workshop — Introduction to Postpartum Therapeutics — is an offering to those at any stage of their birthing journey (pre-natal or postpartum) that discusses the basics of deep core strength and recovery. A resilient deep core will allow more easeful movement throughout pregnancy and into the physical demands of parenting.
The deep core is made up of a community of muscles: Diaphragm, Pelvic floor, Transverse Abdominals (TVA) and Multifidi. They work together to balance out the pressures surrounding your center of gravity (ie, your womb).
Let’s take a look at the diaphragm, or the breathing muscle.
The diaphragm is a pancake-shaped muscle that bisects the body at the level of the lower ribcage. The outer edges connect to the inner surface of the bottom ribs. The center moves up and down like a piston as air fills and empties the body. The video above shows the Diaphragm in its full glore (thank you, 3d-yoga.com).
As you breathe in, the center drops and the outer edges widen, pushing the ribs apart.
As you breath out, the center rises, pushing the air out of your lungs. The ribs are drawn together and down like an umbrella closing
Try this simple exercise called Diaphragmatic Breathing. It helps calm your nervous system, relieves shortness of breath, massages the internal organs and oxygenates your blood.
Position: Seated or standing
Area of Focus: Movement of breath, ribs, belly, pelvic floor
Visualize: Diaphragm rising & falling
1) Inhale through the nose, sending breath down through the torso
2) Exhale, the breath rises and is pushed out through the lips (imagine blowing up a balloon)
3) Repeat 5 times
4) Hold ribcage on either side
5) Inhale, widen the ribs
6) Exhale, keep widening ribs as long as you can
7) Repeat 3-4 times
Come explore the muscles of the deep core and learn the exercises that will keep them resilient throughout your pregnancy, birth, and postpartum phase.