Breathing and Posture for Postpartum Healing

Though we don’t often realize it, considerable coordination and strength are required to maintain human upright posture. There is a finely balanced system between the front and back of the spine, as well as side to side, that allows our bones and joints to move and perform without injury. The human body is an amazing machine, which has an astounding ability to compensate when things are not working quite right. For this reason, you can get along with poor posture and imbalance for weeks, months, and even years without feeling the repercussions.

During pregnancy, the perfect alignment and balance of the musculoskeletal system is thrown into compensatory mode to allow us to continue to stand, walk, bend, squat, lift, and sit. These changes are meant to be temporary, and after pregnancy we must restore ­­proper balance.

First, posture.

Ideal posture requires that weight is evenly distributed. Your head should rest over your ribcage, over your pelvis, over your feet. Your ears should align with your shoulder, hip, and ankle. Your head, ribcage, and pelvis should sit centrally balanced over both feet, with your feet set underneath your knees and hips. This allows your muscles and joints to function well.

Now let’s talk about breathing.

In normal breathing, the diaphragm contracts and moves downward to expand the lungs and take in air (inhale). The diaphragm relaxes and moves upward to expel air (exhale). During quiet breathing, the ribcage and abdomen should expand as the lungs fill. When the air is released, the abdominal wall, ribcage, and pelvic floor rebound back to their resting position. With exertional or deep breathing, greater expansion is needed, and accessory muscles in the neck and abdomen kick in, expanding the ribcage further to get air into every last corner of the lungs.

During pregnancy, the organs of your abdomen are pushed upward. This limits the space for your diaphragm to move, so many women breathe more from the upper ribcage, neck and sternum, which can strain the muscles of the neck causing neck pain or headaches.

After birth, these altered breathing patterns should return to normal, restoring normal relationships between the diaphragm, ribcage, abdominal wall, and pelvic floor. But….sometimes they don’t. Check your own breath patterns to ensure you are breathing for optimal core function and recovery!

To overhaul your posture, breathing, core, and pelvic floor sign up for our online 6 week postpartum rehabilitation program.