Your Postpartum Core Needs Some TLC!!!

By Amalie Malka Flamm on 7/8/2024

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Did you know we take 22,000 breaths a day? That is 22,000 opportunities we have to increase or decrease our core health! Our core acts like a pressure canister similar to a soda can. It is composed of the diaphragm on top, deep core muscles like the transversus abdominis in the front, paraspinal deep back muscles and pelvic floor on the bottom. When each side of the canister works in sync it creates an equal pressure system. As a baby slowly but surely takes up more and more space in the abdomen, our pressure system transitions to accommodate the baby. After the baby leaves the womb, many postpartum women need some extra help to recreate a proper pressure system where all the muscle groups are working properly together again. 

During pregnancy the weight is greater anteriorly (in the front of the body) therefore the abdominal muscles are stretched out and cannot work to their full capacity. The deep back muscles often “take charge.” This can cause tightness as the muscle is working beyond its capacity. Also during pregnancy, the rectus abdominal muscles separate creating a space between the two rectus abdominus muscles (aka diastasis recti) to accommodate the growing baby. The ribs flare out as well, as the internal organs move around  to accommodate the growing uterus. 

Many women retain a learned shallow breathing pattern postpartum. This is largely due to decreased ability for the diaphragm to descend into full extension during an inhale. You can try this in front of your mirror.  Take a deep breath and look to see if shoulders come up, your stomach sucks in and your neck muscles pop out. These are common accessory breathing muscles that become primary during pregnancy and postpartum. Clenching the glutes is another biggie that “Moms-to-be” use to try to control their core and adapt to the new weight. This is often referred to as “mom butt.”  

Frequently, the pelvic floor can lose coordination of movement during each breath. It is supposed to descend as we inhale and relax and come back up as we exhale. If it isn’t moving with our 22,000 breaths a day it can become weak, which causes tightness that can lead to leaking, pelvic pain, pain with intercourse, constipation, low back pain, etc. 

So….is there anything to do about it??


Our bodies are super smart and as explained above, it compensates with “helper” muscles if the main muscles aren’t doing their job during pregnancy. Take the diaphragm for example. The diaphragm muscle descends into the abdominal cavity during inhalation to create more space in the thoracic cavity. During pregnancy, the diaphragm tries to descends as we breathe in,

But…. It gets stuck when the baby is in its space! The diaphragm struggles to lengthen completely so its friends decide to help out. Accessory muscles such as the sternocleidomastoid, scalene, pectoralis major, trapezius and external intercostals will try to chip in to ensure we still breathe adequately. However, this causes a shallow breathing pattern and creates an imbalance of pressure in the core canister. 

After the baby joins the world and leaves its mom’s cozy womb we assume our body will automatically return to how it was before pregnancy, right?? Wrong! In the postpartum period, the body is comfortable in this new way of moving and after the baby leaves, the body continues using these incorrect patterns. So what can we do about it?.

We have to “remind” the body the correct way to move and the proper muscles to activate. To continue with our diaphragm example, our therapists will show you techniques to breathe properly using the correct muscles and getting full 3D inhalations in all directions. It may seem awkward and uncomfortable at first but as you practice and time goes on your body will be like “Oh yes! This makes more sense!” Then, our bodies will often take on the proper movement patterns automatically.  

Our pelvic health therapists will create a client centered treatment plan unique to your needs to catalyze your postpartum recovery to get you back to your best self!

Come check out our office to learn more today!

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