How having a strong core can help childbirth
Sometimes, as the weight of the belly increases in the third trimester, weakness in the core can cause what is called a “pendulous belly” (hanging belly), this is when the belly sags forward unsupported by core muscles. Having Pendulous belly can contribute to less than ideal baby positions like asynclitic (baby’s head tipped to the side) which means the baby’s head is no longer in line with the birth canal, and may also contribute to prodromal labor (long labor, without a lot of progress), or “sticky” shoulders (shoulder dystocia) which is when the baby’s shoulders get stuck and cannot pass below the pubic symphysis without manipulation.
Having a strong and effective core should help support the belly and keep it in no less than a 60 degrees angle to the lower body.
So what’s a pregnant person do to strengthen the core and make sure the pregnant belly is well supported?
The first step is to find a solid prenatal core training program that teaches appropriate and safe core work during pregnancy. Obviously, we recommend our comprehensive program, One Strong Mama. Appropriate core training before and during pregnancy can help prevent a pendulous belly. DO NOT run out and do one million crunches or suck the belly in. Too much tension and pressure in the abdomen is not great for childbirth either.
2. Abdominal Support.
If you notice that you have a pendulous belly, try out a support belt! We want the belly to ideally be around 60 degrees. Not only will changing the angle of the belly help prepare for birthing, it can also relieve aches and pains associated with a pendulous belly. The belt we recommend is called the Baby Belly Belt by Cabea. We encourage moms to do their prenatal core training in addition to the belly support band. Use it as a tool, not a crutch.
3. Labor Support.
We teach a technique for birthing called the abdominal tuck and lift, popularized by Spinning Babies. Essentially, what this technique does is lift the belly angle up during a contraction. This can help with both speeding up the process, and helping baby to find an optimal position. Learn more about this technique in our program or at Spinning Babies. If you choose to use this technique, make sure you do it through 10 contractions in a row for full effect.
Change in Margot over 3 pregnancies
Here is Margot’s bellies from her 3 pregnancies. You can see how her belly angle is quite low in her 2nd pregnancy. She did have diastasis recti prior to conception and possibly she had weak lower core support. As you can see by the photo of her 3rd pregnancy, she learned a lot about core support during her 3rd pregnancy and with the help of proper pregnancy exercise training, her core is supporting her pregnancy more effectively. She is not exactly 60 degrees in the 3rd pregnancy, but much better angle than her 2nd pregnancy, no doubt from the work she has put in.
Try to relax.
Do your part with solid core support through exercise and belly band, if needed. Have the abdominal tuck and lift in your back pocket should you need it during birth. And then relax. We do what we can do, and then we let go and know that sometimes baby’s position or certain things that arise during birthing are outside of our control. We stack the cards in our favor, so to speak. And then we let go and enjoy our pregnancy as best as we can. Some people may need a combination of all 3. Prenatal core work, a belly band, and the technique during birth. Others may only need exercise and support. Still for others this does not appear to be a problem at all. Not everyone is going to have a pendulous belly and it won’t necessarily cause a problem for everyone. Learning about it is a tool. Not another thing to stress out about.