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Protecting Your Back

Use Proper Body Mechanics when Caring for Baby

We've all heard the advice, "lift with your legs," and this guidance is especially true during pregnancy and postpartum.

Women's bodies undergo a great deal of stress and changes that allow us to bear children. The last thing your body needs is additional stress caused by improperly lifting, bending, or simply getting out of bed. Here's why.

The joints of a pregnant and postpartum woman are greatly affected by an increase in the hormone Relaxin. The lower back and sacroiliac joints (located at the lower back on each side of the spine) are particularly vulnerable. Twisting or lifting objects (and baby) incorrectly can place undue stress on this area of the body, which is already susceptible to injury, aches, and pains. For these reasons, it's essential that every woman learns how to use the mechanics of her own body to her advantage, whether picking up a toy off the ground or lifting baby out of her car seat or crib.

Simply put, our leg muscles are stronger than our back muscles, so use them! Below are some simple techniques that will help keep your spine healthy:
  • Always use your legs when lifting. Bend at the knees, not from the waist.
  • Squat down or kneel to pick up your baby and other items off the floor.
  • Hold objects close to your body as you carry them.
  • While holding your baby (or other items) in your arms, avoid twisting from the waist. Turn your entire body instead.
  • Avoid carrying your baby on one hip. This creates poor posture.
  • Adjust your stroller and work areas, such as changing tables, to a height that allows you to stand up straight without leaning over.
  • When breastfeeding, bring your baby to the breast (not your breast to the baby). Use a pillow or arm rest so that you can sit upright in a relaxed posture without slouching.
  • Exhale and tighten your abdominal and pelvic floor muscles as you lift.

  • Getting up from floor: Roll onto your side first, and then push through your hands to come to an upright position. Come to a kneeling position, then place one foot forward on the floor. Place your hands on your forward knee. Use your legs and arms to push yourself to a standing position.

  • Getting out of bed: Roll onto your side first, and then push through your hands to come to an upright position. Swing legs over the side of the bed and sit up, then use legs and arms to come to a standing position. Your abdominal midline is very vulnerable during and after pregnancy, so it is important to roll to your side to sit versus pulling yourself straight up, which places a lot of stress on your weakened abdominal muscles.
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About The Author

Sara Hambidge
Sara, a graduate of Saint Louis University's Physical Therapy Program, practices at a sports medicine clinic in Cincinnati. A certified prenatal and postpartum exercise instructor, Sara is also a proud mother of one.
Sara Hambidge

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