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?

1. Prevention.

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.

Related Articles

  • I'm so grateful for the One Strong Mama program, it helped make my 3rd pregnancy the most comfortable yet. This program helped me find ways to prevent further diastasis recti that I had experienced before, as well as find ways to adjust daily movements practices to continue to feel strong all the way through birth and postpartum. As a prenatal yoga instructor and social worker, I appreciated Lindsay and Lauren's focus on mindful movement, alignment, as well as their inclusiveness of all the ways we give birth. Margot Strahl

  • I'm a mom of three, a doula, a yoga and fitness professional with over a decade of experience, and I love the OSM program. The exercises are simple and easy to follow. But even more, they are truly purposeful, with a clear focus on building strength and function for pregnancy, birth and life. The videos and the library of information have definitely informed my teaching. And at a fraction of the cost of most professional trainings, I  now have ongoing access to an incredible collection of resources. Moms in the pregnancy year and beyond, and professionals working with this population, will greatly benefit from this program. I can't recommend it highly enough. Melissa Gutierrez Nelson

  • Our patients love One Strong Mama. We notice that patients who are working through the One Strong Mama program have less restrictions throughout their soft tissues and muscles. Our patients who have dedicated time to One Strong Mama, do not tend to have many complaints or favor certain positions through their pregnancies. As we continue working on balancing their pelvis with chiropractic care and bodywork, having little soft tissue and muscle tightness it makes their visits with us further apart than other patients that are in our office. We highly recommend One Strong Mama to our expecting mamas! Dr. Jeni Massa and Brianna Bing with Sprout Chiropractic and Wellness

  • Lindsay and Lauren's work got me through my 3rd pregnancy. Their restorative and corrective exercises are easy to do, the instruction easy to follow, requires very little equipment, and can be worked into daily movement practices. I feel stronger than I ever have and cannot recommend this program enough to mamas! You don't have to be in pain during pregnancy, be a strong mama and live well! Laura Pladson

  • I had such an amazing experience with One Strong Mama and would highly recommend to everyone. Not only did it help prepare me physically, but also helped me process emotionally while preparing for my vbac. I was able to have such an easy birthing time as well as recovery postpartum thanks to the movements/exercises I learned. Jessica Anderson

  • Staying comfortable and active my entire pregnancy was priceless. What surprised me was how it stuck with me postpartum. Even when I ended up with a baby that always needed to be held! Sarah Schultz