The Smoke and Mirrors of Pregnancy

Pregnancy is an incredible journey through one of the most exciting times in a woman’s life. Though no one argues how miraculous pregnancy is, I still hear of women fearing the physical changes that happen during pregnancy:

● Getting fat

● Forming a diastasis recti

● Getting fat

● Butt getting big

● Getting fat

● Having a mummy tummy

● Getting fat

● Incontinence

● Getting fat

● Having a tight pelvic floor

● Getting fat

● Feet getting wide and flat

If it seems that getting fat was listed a lot, that’s because it’s the #1 complaint I hear! The notion that a woman becomes “fat” during pregnancy is not a fair assessment of the physical changes that actually happen: pregnancy changes our anatomical structure so that we can handle the demands of carrying a child. It’s true, to make room for a baby we are going to grow, but our changing structure actually has more to do with a strategy for accepting gravitational loads and strains. How on earth does our body make this happen?

In the early stages of pregnancy, our body begins to loosen our ligaments, aiding us in handling a different center of gravity and providing the base for our structure to expand. This evolution allows the uterus to expand rapidly after the first trimester as the hips widen and the ribcage flares. This is an important concept to grasp, because it explains why a woman looks “fat” when really it’s a smoke and mirrors effect from the widening of her structure which changes her core. This new structure determines how the core changes.

One way to think about our core is to think of it as a cannister with pressure from all sides. The top of the cannister is our diaphragm, one of our main breathing muscles. As our uterus grows it pushes the diaphragm upward and the growing baby forces the ribs to flare outward. The bottom of the cannister is our pelvic floor which now is being stretched by the widening of our pelvis. As these two anchors change, it drives our spine to curve in a different way, often with our low back (lumbar) arch moving upward. The added weight of carrying the baby shifts our center of gravity, further accentuating the curve of the spine and placing more stress on the joints and disks.

pregnancy lordosis picture

How on earth do we not fall over? The answer: Our abdominals and back extensors, the sides of our core cannister, make dramatic changes in length and tension. Some muscles become short and tight, like our spinal erectors to help hold the arch in our back; while others become long and taught like our abdominals to hold our baby and organs in towards the spine. As your baby grows, your core muscles are adapting and trying to maintain some stability. Imagine a rubber band pulled at both ends, this is essentially your abdominals during pregnancy. Except that instead of our abdominals snapping, they lengthen more, while still maintaining tension. Pretty amazing, right? So let’s throw away the notion of getting fat with pregnancy, and embrace the changes that our amazing bodies make!


Stacey Earl is a Muscle Activation Techniques (MAT) Certified Specialist and Exercise Specialist; she is the co­owner of Muscle Activation of San Francisco. Her focus on pregnancy and postpartum blossomed over eight years ago when her first personal training clients were getting pregnant. Now after experiencing it twice for herself, it’s more of a crusade for mamas rights to feel strong again after having their children. In addition to working around pregnancy, Stacey has a passion for correcting foot and spinal mechanics. She can be reached at Muscle Activation of San Francisco, 30 Hotaling Place, San Francisco, CA. 415.677.4446


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