Importance of Core Strength and Stability in Pregnancy and Labor
When most people think of their “core” they usually think of their abs. A common assumption is that if you have a six-pack you have a strong core, and conversely, if you don’t have a six-pack that your core must be weak. Having strong abs is certainly part of having a strong and stable core, but that’s only part of the picture. Picture your “core” as a cylinder in the middle of your body – the front is your abs, the sides are your obliques, the back is the deep muscles that stabilize your spine, the top is your diaphragm, and the bottom is your pelvic floor. Imbalance or weakness in any of these areas can cause your core to be weak or unstable, which is a less-than ideal situation for pregnancy and labor. Most people already do sit-ups to work on their abs and Kegels to strengthen their pelvic floor. To strengthen and stabilize your core further, try adding in some of the following exercises (to your tolerance – never to the point of pain, discomfort, or dizziness). To help stabilize your diaphragm, practice “circular breathing” wherein you inhale for four seconds, hold for four seconds, exhale for four seconds, hold for four seconds, and then repeat a few more times. This is also great for practicing breathing in preparation for labor. Planks and pushups are great for back and abdominal strengthening. If pushups are challenging for you, try doing wall pushups until you build up your strength! Another often-overlooked exercise that is important for pelvic floor stability is squats. Strong glute muscles are important for a balanced pelvis. Make sure you feel your glutes contracting when you do your squats – you should feel this workout in your glutes and quads. Incorporating these exercises a few at a time throughout your day – even before you become pregnant - can have a tremendous impact on your overall core strength and stability which can make a huge difference in your labor, delivery, and recovery.