Before you dismiss posture as one of those pregnancy niceties you don’t have the time or energy for, think again! Loosened ligaments, added weight, and new proportions of the pregnant body can lead to back discomfort, hard-to-break habits like sway-back, and even injury if you do not learn correct muscular support. For best results, start early in pregnancy to give your muscles time to catch up to your growing body. Note that good pregnancy posture is the same as good basic posture for the non-pregnant person.
1. Stand straight. Keep your chin level with the ground. (Imagine a string attached to the middle of the top of your head that someone is pulling on upward toward the ceiling.) Some women, out of habit or to minimize a double chin, jut their chins upward; others tend to turn their gaze downward. Either extreme throws off your balance.
2. Check your shoulders to be sure they are dropped naturally. Throwing your shoulder blades too far back strains your lower back. (You will notice that if your head is positioned properly your shoulders will automatically drop into the correct, relaxed position.)
3. Gently pull in your abdomen. Don’t stand with your abdomen pooched out with your back swayed.
4. Pull in your buttocks. This posture gives your pelvis the correct tilt and shifts your weight so that your center of gravity is directly over your hips. Practice this posture against a wall, feet six inches out, pulling and tucking so that the small of your back is flat against the wall.
5. Don’t lock your knees. This can put yet another strain on your lower back. Instead, stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and flex your knees just a bit to let your thighs support more of your body weight. Also, make sure your weight is spread out over your entire foot, not just your heels. Though this posture may feel awkward at first, remind yourself to use it as much as possible. After a while it will become second nature.
6. Avoid standing too long. Standing for too long when pregnant can impede proper circulation and cause uncomfortable swelling of the ankles and feet. If you must be upright and stationary, rest one foot on a low stool for a time, then switch. And keep your blood flowing by moving your calf muscles; stand on your toes every now and then, or lift one foot off the ground in order to do foot exercises: rotate your foot around in full circles, clockwise and counterclockwise, using your ankle as the pivot point. If you have a job that requires you to stand most of your workday, ask for a transfer to a position that requires less time on your feet. Studies show that women with stand-up jobs throughout their pregnancy are more likely to deliver smaller babies.
7. Sit smart. Choose a hard, straight-backed chair. Position a throw pillow behind your lower back if you need additional support. Many women find a footstool takes further pressure off the lower back. If you do not have a footstool, at least make sure the chair you sit in is low enough for you to place both your feet squarely on the floor.
8. Do not cross your legs. This common habit contributes to poor circulation and promotes varicose veins. To increase circulation when sitting, do the foot exercises mentioned above. If you work in an office where you must sit most of the day, make sure you get up and walk around for a few minutes at least once every half-hour. Keep a low stool, or even a stack of books, under your desk for your feet.
9. Sleep right. Your body will normally let you know what is the most comfortable sleeping position. Standard pregnancy advice is that after the fourth month back sleeping should be avoided, since lying on your back puts the whole weight of your uterus on the major blood vessels that lay to the right of your spine. Since some women find themselves unable to sleep on their left side, the advice to avoid both back and right side lying is distressing for them. There is a theoretical advantage to sleeping on your left side, as it enhances circulation to the placenta. For women with placental problems the advice to sleep on their left side only is of utmost importance. However, most women move around during the course of the night and probably whatever position is comfortable for you is all right. Realistically, by the time you should not be sleeping on your stomach, you will find it is very uncomfortable to sleep on your stomach; and by the time you should not be sleeping on your back, you will find it is very uncomfortable to sleep on your back.
10. Shift slowly. When shifting from standing to sitting, lower yourself gently. Extend your arms behind you, bend your knees, and let your thighs do most of the work. Resist the temptation to simply fall into a chair. While it certainly won’t hurt the baby, it could, in later months, cause you to strain some already-loose ligaments. To stand from sitting, once again make the most of your leg muscles. With your feet well under you, push up from your calves. Take care not to jerk yourself forward; it may be faster but it can wreak havoc on your lower back.