Birth Prep Tip #2 – Part 2
Find Symmetry in your Pelvis
I have to laugh as I write this because I am taking a break from fixing my washing machine. I am literally sitting in my kitchen surrounded by various hoses and panels and other washing machine parts. Unfortunately, something sprouted a leak last week and flooded our main floor laundry room. Then we had to rip out flooring and dry wall in the 3 rooms where the water managed to travel. (Maybe had something to do with the -42oC temperatures??) I digress, but this post does have a good reason for being tardy!
So back on track – in my last post I talked about the need for a symmetrical pelvis during birth. To recap, symmetry will hopefully make it easier for your baby to flex/extend/rotate (the cardinal movements) through your pelvis on his or her way earthside! This in turn will hopefully make labour a little easier and less painful for momma. Plus, a uterus that is well balanced within a nice symmetrical pelvis will help baby have the room to find the optimal position for labour (occiput anterior).
So, how can you tell if your pelvis in symmetrical? Well, you can do my favorite quick test easily at home. If you are familiar with yoga, you are going to lie down on a flat, firm surface in a reclined cobbler’s pose or reclined bound angle pose (sometimes also known as Goddess Pose – perfect for a pregnant momma!). If you have no idea what I am talking about, see below for a picture: (and maybe relax your arms and face a little…Oh ya, and don’t wear jeans! They are too tight and will prevent your knees from coming down naturally)
When you are lying in this position, I really want you to sense in to how it feels in your body. Start by taking a peek down the length of your body, down to your knees. Are they sitting at the same height? They don’t need to be resting on the floor, but is one knee popping up higher than the other? (that’s a sign of assymtery!).
Now try a glute squeeze – imagine you are trying to hold a pencil between your bum cheeks (it really needs to be an isolated glute squeeze and not a pelvic tilt). Are both bum cheeks firing at the same time and at even strength? Or do you have one power-house cheek? Or have your bum muscles disappeared altogether?
And how does it feel in the back at your SI joints and around your sacrum? Does it hurt on one side? Does one hip joint feel jammed?
If one knee is sitting up higher than the other, or one bum cheek just doesn’t seem to be holding its own, or if it just plain hurts when you lie down like this – that’s a pretty good sign the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex is not happy. Think about other things you do as well – do you ever get pain on one side of your pelvis or low back? Do you feel weaker on one side? Things are likely not symmetrical.
And that means you need to do something about it. So what can you do?
1) Get some body work done. Of course I am going to recommend seeing a physiotherapist that specializes in pregnancy or pre/post natal care! There are certain physios out there who specialize in helping pregnant ladies get their pelvises symmetrical using a special set of exercises designed by a dutch physio, Cecile Rost. I love these exercises as a general technique for the release of an asymmetrical or painful pelvis and low back during pregnancy. They are simple and easy to do at home, and you only need 1-2 visits with a physio to get set up. And for ~80% of the pregnant ladies I’ve seen, they work awesome. If you want to learn more about the Rost technique, or find a physio who’s trained in it, click here.
Sometimes, however, you might need more specific help in balancing your pelvic ring. In that case I reccomend a physio who is trained in the Integrated Systems Model. This is a special way of looking at the body as an entire system and analyzing all the forces (vectors!) that might be influencing your pelvis (or any other joint for that matter). This is important because sometimes the assymtery might have to do with the bony joints in the pelvic ring itself, but sometimes its muscular, or maybe related to connective tissue, or maybe even a pull from an organ (like the uterus!) and you need to have the viscera looked at. Think Aristotle and synergy – your body as a whole is worth more than just the sum of its isolated parts! To learn more about the Integrated Systems Model and to find a physio who has that training, click here. (Find a Physio is at the top).
There are also other forms of body work that lots of people love – massage, acupuncture, chiropractic… the list goes on. Just keep in mind that typically these therapies focus more heavily on one body system, and you may require different people for different parts.
2) Spin that baby. Okay, I don’t literally mean spin your baby. But I do mean check out the Spinning Babies website. Although Gail Tully has lots of great info on there about babies that aren’t optimally positioned (ie. breech or posterior), she has amazing resources for ALL pregnant women. Her 3 principles (balance, gravity and movement) are golden! And I recommend her inversion exercise daily. It is amazing for helping the uterus to pull more symmetrically on the pelvic ring. To navigate her site more easily, stick to the menus at the top of the page.
3) Put as much symmetry into ALL your daily activities as possible. Sit on BOTH your sit bones evenly – your weight equally on each cheek. That probably means uncrossing your legs. When you are standing, stand on both legs! Don’t hang out on one hip. Pay attention to your sleeping position.
Think about other areas of your life – so much of what we do is one-sided. You always drive an automatic with only your right leg. You use your computer mouse with only your right hand. The right-sided world takes a toll on the body. You have to be mindful about using your other side and potentially opening up that side of the body more. That might mean doing some stretches, but it more than likely means your need to reflect on the little parts of your day that you repeat over and over and over. A little change to one of those parts will go a long way!
So – these tips are a start towards pelvic symmetry. There are probably a million exercises or stretches I could mention (think about all the muscles that attach to the pelvis!), but without assessing you individually, I have no idea what you might need in your individual body. So that is your job – how does your pelvis feel today? Are you symmetrical? 😉