Performing pelvic tilt exercises during pregnancy is essential in order to keep mobility in the low back, hips and pelvis. Pelvic tilt exercises also help maintain abdominal muscle tone and provide a mild low back stretch, which can help alleviate the low back pain and discomfort that often accompanies pregnancy--particularly in the last two trimesters.
The pelvis can tilt forward, backward and side-to-side. During pregnancy the forward and backward tilts are the most comfortable to perform and will help keep the low back healthy and pain-free, whereas the side-to-side tilts may actually be uncomfortable to many women. When tilting the tailbone forward, known as a posterior tilt, the low back and spine lengthen, providing a stretch to the low back region. With the tailbone moving backward, known as an anterior tilt, the low back muscles and spine will shorten and the lower front pelvis will lengthen. During pregnancy, the fetus often pulls the mother into this posture, which can create tightening in the lower back muscles and a stretching, pulling sensation in the lower belly. Performing the anterior pelvic tilt in a very slow and controlled manner is important, and limited range of motion is recommended in order to protect the lower back.
Standing, seated and kneeling positions are typically the most comfortable positions for performing pelvic tilts during pregnancy. Tilts while kneeling on the hands and knees can be performed as long as the mother is comfortable; sometimes the weight of the baby pulling downward exerts uncomfortable pressure on the spine and hips. Standing and sitting are typically the better-tolerated positions throughout the entire pregnancy.
Hands and Knees
To perform pelvic tilts in the hands and knees position, get on all fours with the wrists aligned under the shoulders and knees aligned under the hips or slightly wider if needed for comfort. Take a deep breath, and with the exhale breath pull baby upward with your abdominals as you round your back and press firmly into your arms and hands. Slowly release the rounded back position and allow the baby weight to pull your lower back as far down as comfortable. Repeat 5 to 10 times, being careful to avoid holding your breath.
Standing with your back against a wall is a very effective and supportive way to perform pelvic tilts. Place your feet shoulder distance apart and use your hands to find a small arch in your low back so there is space between your low back and the wall. The back of your head, shoulder blades, and tailbone should be touching the wall. Take a deep breath, and as you exhale slowly press your lower back toward the wall as your tailbone slides down the wall. With your next exhale, slide your tailbone up the wall and create an arch in the low back. Only go as far as you are comfortable in each direction, and perform 5 to 10 repetitions of each pelvic tilt.
Using a large exercise ball promotes pelvic mobility and movement and lends support, particularly in the second and third trimesters when the belly can get quite large. Sit firmly on the ball with feet shoulder distance apart on the floor and make sure your hips are slightly higher than your knees. Take a deep breath and use the exhale breath to tuck the tailbone underneath you, creating a small forward roll of the ball toward your feet. This posterior tilt will stretch the low back. With your next exhale, press your tailbone back as far as you comfortably can, creating a small roll of the ball away from your feet. You can also experiment with sitting tall and rolling the ball from side to side and in circles. If you are pain free, you should go in all directions for additional hip and pelvic benefits.
- "Resist-A-Ball Instructor Training Manual"; Mike and Stephanie Morris; 1999
- "Musculoskeletal Anatomy and Human Movement"; Lawrence A. Golding, PhD and Scott M. Golding, MS; 2003