If labor and delivery is the most challenging physical event most women will ever do…why do we not train our bodies for it?
We would never sit around for 10 months prior to a marathon and expect for the race to go well. The woman’s body was absolutely designed to give birth. However, that does not mean it comes naturally to most of us. The Tummy Team works with clients during their pregnancy to work on the key muscles required to support mom and baby well throughout the course of the pregnancy AND we work on the essential connection and coordination required between the core and pelvic floor muscles for labor, pushing, and postpartum recovery. You need to feel connected and develop key muscle memory strategies prior to the intensity of the birth process so you can face your upcoming birth with confidence and the skills needed for anything you might encounter. Below are the 8 essential ingredients to successfully prepare your body physically for a stronger birth…
1. Anatomy Education: Know your body.
Your body is going to support a huge transformation over the course of 10 months and then needs to recover and reconnect so it is strong enough for the physical and emotional demands of newborn care. Do you know your body? Do you understand what muscles are going to support these changes? The Tummy Team is passionate about helping moms understand what muscles are required for a strong healthy pregnancy and effective birth recovery.
2. Core Connection and Awareness: Know where your core is and how it activates.
The first thing to understand is the role of your internal core muscles. Our innermost corset muscle is the Transverse Abdominis and it wraps around our torso, connects our pelvis to our rib cage, stabilizes our spine and supports the growing uterus. Most people are somewhat unaware of this muscle but it is essential for everyday posture and the key ingredient to a strong pregnancy.
The core strength needed for pregnancy and birth recovery is not found in the gym or traditional crunch exercises but in your posture, your breathing, and your daily movement patterns. After we educate you on your anatomy, the next step of The Tummy Team is to help you connect to this key muscle and give you strategies to activate your core effectively throughout your day and throughout your pregnancy.
3. Diastasis Recti Prevention: Know how to avoid damaging your core.
Diastasis Recti is a condition very common in pregnancy where your abdominal wall stretches excessively down the midline and causes a muscle separation. This is a common but not normal condition and if untreated can lead to poor fetal alignment, ineffective pushing in labor, low back pain, pelvic pain, pelvic instability, and much more.
The good news: Preventing and treating diastasis recti is The Tummy Team’s specialty! Doing prenatal core training to reconnect to your transverse abdominis and increase the functional strength of your core is key to preventing (and minimizing the damage from) diastasis recti. But we also educate you in what postures, positions, exercises, and activities are making your abdominal wall more susceptible to developing or worsening a diastasis recti.
4. Neutral Posture Alignment: Know how to support yourself for your body to be strong.
Did you know that every muscle in your body has an ideal alignment for it to be most effective? It is easy to overlook the importance of our postural alignment. However, it is a key ingredient for how to prepare for pregnancy and birth. The chronically collapsed and rounded forward postures that dominate our days can actually sabotage your ability to build the functional core (and pelvic floor) strength required for a pain-free strong pregnancy.
It is actually more than just “stand up tall.” Many of us simply do not have the postural strength and the muscle balance to access the ideal alignment. This is where prenatal core training comes in. We systematically rebuild that core strength and lengthen and release all the compensation muscles that are keeping you collapsed. In the end, we give you practical strategies to help you achieve and maintain these postures.
5. Optimal Mom/Fetal Alignment: Know how to help the baby be in the best position for birth.
The best posture for mom ends up being the best posture for the baby too. Our focus on connecting to the transverse abdominis and achieving neutral pelvis and rib cage alignment helps you to be elongated, stable and grounded as your belly grows. At the same time, the neutral position of the pelvis gives baby the perfect amount of room for optimal fetal alignment in the womb.
In addition, the active and elongated transverse abdominis pulls the uterus and baby more upright and aligned with the birth canal. The best part is that as we work on strength for mom, we are setting the stage for a smooth labor and delivery progression.
6. Core and Pelvic Floor Relationship: Know how to keep your core and pelvic floor connected for birth.
The core and pelvic floor are intimately connected in our body. The core muscles act as a cylinder around the torso and the pelvic floor muscles are the floor of that cylinder. These 2 muscle groups work together for postural support, pelvic and spinal stability and with respiration (basically every breath you take can activate your core and pelvic floor). These muscles groups are unique as they are designed for all-day function not a series of isolated exercises. They are also essential to support the growing uterus and to support the uterus during labor. To learn more about the relationship and coordination of the core and pelvic floor during delivery watch this video: To Push Or Not To Push.
7. Connection and Coordination for Pushing: Know how to disassociate the two muscle groups for practice pushing.
As much as the core and pelvic floor muscles work together for most of our daily needs, they also need to work independently for delivery as the core activates to support the uterus and the pelvic floor relaxes to allow the baby to pass through the birth canal. Birth is not the best time to learn how to push your baby out. Fortunately, the uterus does most of the work for us, we simply need to know how to help the uterus do its job. The Tummy Team focuses on this specific connection and coordination far before you enter the delivery room to help you feel prepared and confident going into your birth.
8. Initial Postpartum Birth Recovery Plan: Know how to set up your newborn care routine to work for you.
While pregnancy, labor, and delivery are extremely challenging, the work does not stop at birth it just changes to a new set of challenges. Caring for a newborn is hard work! Caring for a newborn while recovering from birth is even more difficult. This is why we do prenatal core training! All of the work we do while you are pregnant will help you with a speedy birth recovery and give you the strength to care for your baby. We give you amazing strategies to help the routine of newborn care also become your birth recovery routine. The Tummy Team is practical. We know all too well how demanding this season is and we give you realistic strategies to build into the repetition of newborn care that you do all day long. This is such valuable information that every new mother needs.
How we can help you…
The Tummy Team has designed 3 Prenatal Online courses based on years of clinical experience with thousands of clients in our physical therapy office. The most comprehensive is our 6-week Prenatal Core Training course that is great to start anytime after your first trimester up until 6 weeks before your due date. If you have less than 6 weeks, then do our Prenatal Crash Course. This was designed with as much information as we could give if we only had 1 or 2 sessions with a client before birth. We also have a specially designed program for expecting moms who know they will have a planned cesarean birth. Core Preparation for Cesarean removes the pushing training and adds some surgical preparation and recovery information that is specific for these moms.