Are you pregnant with baby #2, 3 or beyond and currently have a toddler or another baby at home? Often times self-care goes out the window when we have to care for a little person and this is a very important concept while your body is creating another little life. It seems that our time is fully committed to our other babies that are already earth-side and we don’t have time to take care of ourselves. Pregnancy can create many challenges, but physically our body is going through incredible changes that are worth celebrating and protecting.
It is very common for women to experience back pain at some time during their pregnancy. According to several studies, the prevalence of low back pain during pregnancy is around 50-60%. Due to the expanding belly, weight is shifted anteriorly causing more stress on many joints, ligaments and muscles including the spine and pelvis. The muscles have a bigger job to do and have to work extra hard to keep posture upright. Additionally, the shift in hormones (increase in relaxin, for example) makes our ligaments, tendons and joints more pliable, especially in the pelvis to prepare for the widening of the pelvis during birth. It is common for women to have disorders in the pelvis including SI joint dysfunction due to instability in these joints during pregnancy.
Added stress on the body, including constantly lifting a 25-35 lb toddler, will cause more stress on the spine and muscles in the back and around the pelvis. So, how we lift, carry, transfer, and play with our toddler while pregnant is very important to prevent undue stress on the spine or pelvis. Here are some tips to decrease stress on your back while caring for your toddler while pregnant:
- Hip hinge and bend your knees while lifting your toddler: You want to always keep your spine neutral when lifting anything. Always bend your knees and not your spine and hinge forward at your hips/pelvis to keep your low back in a neutral posture. Think about sticking your butt back (like you are about to sit in a chair) to help keep your spine neutral.
- When you are lifting your toddler, keep him/her close to your body. Avoid reaching too far for your toddler or reaching over objects to get to them. This can be difficult when lifting them in/out of their crib. Placing a small step stool just under or next to their crib can help. You can place one foot on the step stool to offload your back. Remember to hinge at your hips (don’t bend your spine) and when you get them out of the crib, keep them close to your body.
- Exhale as you lift. When you go to lift your toddler, exhale as you do so to decrease stress placed on your pelvic floor and back. Breath holding can lead to excessive pressure on your pelvic floor (causing leakage or prolapse) and also places stress on the disks in your spine. Exhaling helps to decrease intra-abdominal pressure and allows for our inner core to be activated to support our spine.
- Avoid popping your hip out while carrying your toddler. It may seem easy to balance a toddler on one hip while doing many other tasks with your other hand. Jutting your hip out just puts our spine and pelvis in awkward and poor alignment and causes more stress and strain on the ligaments, tendons and muscles around our hips, spine, pelvis and knees. When wrapping them around one side of our body, keep your weight evenly distributed through both feet.
If you are experiencing back pain during your pregnancy, or you are worried that you will not be able to keep carrying your toddler, we can help. Reach out to us at 636-225-3649 to speak with one of our experienced pelvic physical therapists. Yes, back pain during pregnancy is common but it is not normal.
Author: Lauren Critchlow