How to help your Balance while pregnant

It can be difficult to find balance in your life. Especially when pregnant. It can be difficult to balance: physical, emotional, professional, and familial life.

In this blog, I’ll mostly dive into the biomechanical aspect of what changes during pregnancy. I'll also talk about what you can do to prevent a fall (it’s more common than you might think!) and stay as strong and well-balanced as possible throughout your motherhood journey.

Pregnancy-Related Fall Facts:

  • Approximately 26% of employed pregnant women fall during their pregnancies. This percentage almost mirrors the rate of people over the age of 65 years old falling!  
  • Most falls occur in the second trimester. 
  •  After about week 16 of pregnancy, reaching forward can be cumbersome. This can lead to a change in your body’s ability to balance.

Here's why your fall risk is so great:

  • Your baby belly makes your center of gravity shift forward
  • Increased resting states make it easy for the body to become deconditioned.

A study that compared the strength in pregnant vs. non-pregnant women found the following results:

Pregnant women’s quads and back muscles were weaker than nonpregnant women by the second trimester.

This change in musculature occurs because so many women feel significant fatigue and nausea in the first trimester. Because of this,  they don’t move as frequently. It only takes about 2 weeks to start losing muscle tone. The first trimester is 12 weeks long. That’s the “if you don’t use it, you lose it” principle for ya.

This is why I so strongly recommend that women stay active while pregnant. You want strong legs and core to create a stable base of support and more weight from that gorgeous baby belly!

That said, I respect the body’s need to rest during pregnancy is important, too. There is, however, usually a small window of time each day where energy levels are better. Notice when this happens for you (it might change daily!)

Non-pregnant women maintain the upright stance by following this muscle activation pattern:

  • Hip stability
  • Ankle stability
  • Taking a steadying step

When pregnant, the order shifts to activating ankles before hips. Since the muscles in our ankle are much smaller than in our hips, this is not an ideal strategy. This is another reason why keeping even your feet and ankles strong is so important during pregnancy!

Pregnant women often do two things, subconsciously, to increase their stability.

Lock The Knees

  • This gives your body the sensation that all your joints are stacked. But it actually puts your pelvis in even more of an anterior tilt, which stresses the low back. It can also be unhealthy for the ligaments in the posterior knee. So, if you notice yourself doing this, think “soft knees” and keep just a slight bend in them if you are static standing. 

Keep A Widened Stance

  • Visualize a giraffe with legs apart so it can bend down and get a drink of water. This is your body’s way of increasing your base of support, but it can add some pressure to your sacrum. If you are standing in line, watching a kiddo, standing at your desk, or brushing your teeth, I advise that you double-check that your feet are stacked underneath your hips. If your baby bump has grown past the point of being able to see your feet, then have a friend, coworker, or family member check when you aren’t necessarily expecting it.

4 Easy Ways to Check Your Balance: 

*Please have someone nearby for safety!

  1. Stand with your eyes open and one foot placed in front of the other. (Heel to toe). See if you can maintain that position for 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side. Then, try to walk forward heel to toe.
  2. Stand still for 30 seconds with your eyes closed and see if you can feel yourself sway.
  3. Stand on one leg for 30 seconds and then stand on the other leg for 30 seconds. Notice if there’s a difference side-to-side. (If there is, then perhaps do a few more reps of stability exercises on the less-strong side when performing your beneficial movements.
  4. If test #3 seemed easy, repeat the single-leg lift with eyes closed this time.

4 Easy Ways To Improve Your Balance 

1. Dance!

I’m serious. Spinning, swaying, moving in different directions at once is so good for our lateral muscles. It stimulates our vestibular system in our inner ear. Here’s one of my favorite goofy songs to dance to with my son: The Gummy Bear Song.

2. Strengthen your glutes

If they aren’t strong, then your whole body will feel unstable. A great way to do this is by doing a squat and squeezing your buttocks as you return to standing. You are always welcome to hold onto a wall or counter for the extra balance support.

3. Strengthen your ankles

Single and double leg calf raises are helpful. So is gripping your toes to the floor for improving your intrinsic foot muscle’s ability to support your arch.

4. Doing the “grapevine” or “karaoke” movement with your hips.

 It looks like this (but you can go much more slowly).

The mind-body connection is strong. When you feel more physically balanced it’s amazing how much more balanced that can help you feel mentally and emotionally too! I know that working on your balance isn’t a typically under 60-year-old fitness goal. But it is a big part of our overall well-being!

The Train4Birth coaching and Fitness Birthplan meet you where you are. It will help you navigate the daily changes in energy levels and ability throughout pregnancy. We focus on balance, strengthening, stretching, and promoting joy within yourself. If you feel like your balance is “off”, you can always schedule a consultation with me! 

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