What's going on with the core during pregnancy and why is it important to keep a strong core?
During pregnancy, your growing baby is pushing out in all directions, increasing the amount of intra-abdominal pressure (pressure within the abdominal cavity). This causes the core muscles to stretch.
A certain degree of stretching is necessary during pregnancy, but with increased pressure, we are concerned with keeping the core intact and not overly stretching the abdominal wall - because the main function of the core is stability.
An overly stretched (and weakened) core affects your posture, and poor posture places more added pressure to the walls of the core.
Added pressure on an already stretched, and possibly weak core, can produce varying and quite serious repercussions. This can lead to the uterus bulging forward even more, creating a more pronounced lordotic curve and anterior pelvic tilt (sway back). The fetal head doesn't align within the pelvis as well as it would if the core were strong and intact, and it is more difficult to engage weak abdominal muscles while pushing, so labor often takes longer.
Let’s go over a quick anatomy lesson!
While most people associate the core with simply the front of the abdomen, it actually includes all the muscles that wrap the spine, attach to the shoulder girdle, and hips – think from your neck down to the bottom of your glutes. For our purposes, will be focusing on the inner unit of the core. This is your deepest core layer and is comprised of 4 muscles/muscle groups that form a cylinder-like shape: the diaphragm, multifidus, transverse abdominis, and pelvic floor.
In a properly functioning core, these muscles remain anticipatory, meaning they contract PRIOR to movement and work together in concert to stabilize the spine and maintain normal intra-abdominal pressure. Stabilizing the spine is what keeps up walking upright instead of slumping forward. Training the core is imperative, especially during pregnancy, because if the core is weak, the posture of the mother will be compromised. This compromised core creates less stability on the spine and causes pain.
While many women assume pain is normal during pregnancy (because everyone has it), it doesn't have to be your normal.
Anatomy. It's important.