During pregnancy, the rib cage must expand in order to make room for the growing baby.
You may notice this as your bra size going up around the back. The ribs start to move upwards and outwards and the whole ribcage is pushed forwards over the pelvis. The pelvis may start to tilt forwards more with the weight of the baby and you may also notice that your upper back has become more rounded.
Once the baby is born, most mums are still standing in this posture – the ribs get ‘stuck’ in this flared position, the upper back becomes even more rounded from round the clock feeding, and you can’t even figure out where your pelvis should be! All these postural changes affect our breathing mechanics and have a big impact on post-natal recovery as faulty breathing and abnormal postural alignments will cancel out any attempts at rehabilitation of the pelvic floor and Diastasis. You may then notice that you have upper or lower back pain, or pelvic floor problems such as stress incontinence.
It is advised that all new mums see a Women’s Health physiotherapist who can assess YOUR posture and breathing mechanics. An individualised programme to help release soft tissue restrictions and improve postural alignment and breathing for an optimal function can then be prescribed.
However, here are some tips and exercises to get started on which I find help most new mums to improve rib/upper back movement and therefore contributing to better breathing and pelvic floor function:
1) Book openings
Lie on your side with your head on a pillow and knees and hips bent at about 45 degrees. Stack your knees and hips on top of each other.
Breathe in and float the arm to the ceiling. Breathe out as the arm continues towards the floor behind you. Let the movement come from the rib cage, not the shoulder so that you feel the rotation in the upper back. Press the knees down into the floor to help keep the pelvis still. Breathe in and hold and then exhale as your float the arm back.
Repeat 5 times on each side.
2) Child pose
Sit back with the knees apart, feet together, and the arms stretched out in front of you. Breathe in deeply, feeling the back and sides of the ribcage expand and then soften as exhale. Stay here for 10 long slow deep breathes.
Sit either with legs crossed or in a Z position (as shown in image) with arms out to the side. Breathe in and grow tall, and as you exhale bend your body to one side keeping both sit bones down on the mat. Inhale and breathe into the ribs, feeling them opening up like an accordion. Breathe out and thread the top hand under the other arm, breathe in to return to the side bend position and breath out to return to an upright position.
Repeat 5 times on each side.
Lie on your back with feet slightly apart and arms by your side. Breathe in to prepare to move, and whilst breathing out slowly tilt the tailbone off the floor, imprinting your lower back into the mat. Continue to peel the spine off the mat, imagining you are rolling up bone by bone onto your shoulders. Breathe in and hold the position, and then as you breathe out, soften the sternum and slowly roll the spine back down onto the floor, focusing on getting the ribs down before the lower back.
Repeat 5- 10 times.
The 4-week Postnatal pilates program that we have developed will take you through 12 Pilates classes and 8 Educational videos presented by Woman’s health Physiotherapist Lydia McTamney. You will have access to a full Nutrition guide developed by the Cultured Nutritionist. 10 weeks access to the program is provided in order to allow you to progress at your own rhythm.
Strat today and receive access to all the tools and resources you need to incorporate Pilates and nutrition into your new lifestyle.
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