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My name is Dr. Jessi Gradin, I am one of the chiropractors at our Multnomah Village clinic and, two months ago (at age 35), I had my first baby. Over the next couple of months I will be sharing a little bit about my adventure from preconception to postpartum. The journey of every expecting mom is different and I am not here to say my experience is “normal,” or “abnormal.” My hope in writing this blog is that you will find things that resonate with you; Use my experience and recommendations to have a more informed, confident and comfortable time navigating your unique pregnancy.

As a chiropractor, and someone who enjoys routine physical activity, I felt like I was totally prepared for all of the changes and demands pregnancy would have on my body… boy was I wrong! The changes my body has made over the past year are miraculous but have also been a tough adjustment, both mentally and physically. I’ve had to put forth much more effort in simple rehab exercises in order for my body to feel strong (a work in progress) and pain free. We will talk more about the mental aspect of a changing body in an upcoming blog in this series… stay tuned! 

For now, we will go trimester by trimester, discussing typical areas of discomfort and how to address those issues with strength and mobility drills. As you read along, please remember that every birthing person’s experience is different. This is not meant to be an all encompassing rehab program, but a few tips to help you along your way to parenthood. We recommend all expecting parents come in for evaluation and treatment by a chiropractor so that a custom care plan can be made for you. Additionally, if your pregnancy has been classified as “high risk” please consult your OB/midwife before performing any exercises. Let’s get started!

First Trimester: Weeks 0 – 13

You’re pregnant! CONGRATULATIONS MOMMA! During the early months of pregnancy you may find yourself anywhere along the symptoms spectrum, ranging from feeling fairly normal to feeling constantly nauseated and downright terrible. One thing is for certain; first trimester fatigue is no joke. If fatigue and nausea are bringing you down a workout can feel like the last thing you want to do. 

So, try and reframe in your mind what a “workout” means. Taking a walk, practicing gentle yoga or working on your breathing might be all the effort you can muster up and that is OK! On the contrary, you may feel great. If that is the case, keep doing what you were doing before the pregnancy, you will only need to keep a few mild changes in mind during the first trimester. You’ll want to:

– Limit/eliminate activities with a high risk of falling

– Limit max effort weight lifting

– Pay attention to adequate hydration; watch out for signs of dehydration like dizziness, rapid heart rate and very dark yellow urine.

– Always talk to your doctor before starting any new exercise routine in pregnancy

Pregnancy + Mobility

Now is the time to really start listening to your body. Keep moving in any way that feels good to you. You will be glad you did! Exercise during pregnancy has many proven benefits including:

– Reduced back pain

– Increased balance and mobility

– Reduced risk of gestational diabetes

– Maintained appropriate weight gain throughout pregnancy

– Improved energy level and mood

– Reduced constipation 

In addition to your regular exercise routine, we recommend starting or ending your day with a full body mobility routine. This is a great way to safely move through ranges of motion from head to toe. Follow along with our morning stretch routine below and check out the full post for more in depth stretch instructions!
*the one caveat here, once you no longer feel comfortable lying on your stomach, remove the McKenzie press up from your routine.

While 10 minutes may seem like a lot of time, you are worth it, and your body will thank you! Prioritizing self care now will make it easier to continue to do so once your baby arrives. In my experience self care, whatever that means to you, is a non negotiable for mental health that is even more vital after baby. Remember to prioritize movement throughout your day. Get up from your desk and walk around for a few minutes once every hour. 

Pregnancy + Breath Work

Now is a great time to learn about and focus on your breath, a tool you will use during pregnancy and through postpartum. Not to mention when it comes time to deliver your baby! 

The goal in retraining your breath is to utilize the diaphragm, deep core and pelvic floor muscles in a coordinated effort. Using your diaphragm, the large dome shaped muscle under the rib cage, to breathe will also help the muscles of your pelvic floor and deep core recover after delivery. Taking a deep breath in the diaphragm descends and flattens out as the lungs fill with air (this is why your tummy expands). During inhalation the pelvic floor muscles descend, lengthen and relax.

The opposite is true upon exhalation. The diaphragm and pelvic floor muscles ascend, shorten and become more taught. Focused effort in breathing this way moves these muscles through their full range of motion. Diaphragmatic breathing, as it is referred to, also creates a mind/muscle connection that will be a very powerful tool for you during labor.

Breathing might seem like a silly thing to “work on”. You’ve been doing it your entire life, right? Odds are somewhere along the way you’ve developed breathing patterns that are less than ideal. Try this with me…place the palm of one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly and take a few deep breaths in and out. Which hand did you feel moving more? For most of us it is the hand on the chest we feel moving.

This type of breathing is not ideal as it utilizes the smaller muscles to accomplish respiration as opposed to the large diaphragm. What we want to happen is for the hand on the belly to rise and fall with minimal movement of the chest. Watch a new baby or young child breathe, that’s what we’re going for! Check out our “optimal respiration and preparation for exercise” video for step by step instruction.

Once you get the hang of breathing in this new way it is important to incorporate your new technique into different movements and positions. Follow along with our “getting to the core” video series below for more on how to accomplish this.

Although joyful, the first trimester can be very challenging. Managing work, working out and family life can be a lot when you’re feeling exhausted. Check in with yourself regularly on how you feel. If you are feeling overwhelmed please reach out to friends, family, a counselor or your doctor to talk. No one should have to go through pregnancy alone! Give yourself permission to reduce the intensity of your workouts, but do your best to maintain consistency. After all, you’re training for one of the biggest aerobic events of your life… labor!

Getting to the Core