Is our pelvis shape predetermined by our genetics or do we have a say in the matter?
Guess what? Yay, we have a say! (and I'm a poet and I didn't even know it)
You may or may not know that there are several types of pelvis shapes. I learned from the amazing and incredible Gail Tully of Spinning Babies that pelvis shape can play a big part in the ease of childbirth. Particularly if baby is in certain positions such as posterior (Looking up- babies spine against mom's spine. Also called "sunny side up"). While I don't think it's a good idea to stress about your pelvic shape, I do think that it can be empowering to know that YOUR PELVIS SHAPE IS NOT FIXED. You can change the shape of the pelvis from front to back based upon how you move your body around! It's not a case of "Whelp- I was born this way, so there is nothing I can do about it, I'm destined to have harder births." This is absolutely NOT the case. First of all, there are many cases of individuals with pelvis shapes that tend to cause more issues having no issues whatsoever, and additionally, you can make changes in how your pelvis is shaped based on (important so I'm saying it again) HOW YOU CARRY YOUR BODY AROUND.
So you say- well my mom had a *insert pelvis shape* pelvis, and I do so how is that not genetic. What is interesting is that we DO tend to move and sit the way that our parents do. If your mom is a pelvis tucker or sits on her tailbone, then there is a high probability that you do to. As children we are great observers and we learn a lot about how to stand, sit, and move with our bodies by how we see others doing it. So you MIGHT have the same shape pelvis as other women in your family, but likely it's because you move like them.
Let me say this again because I find it amazing! YOUR PELVIS SHAPE IS NOT FIXED. Is this completely amazing and mind blowing to anyone else as it was for me to first time I heard it? Have you ever heard a woman told "you just can't give birth vaginally- there isn't enough room"? Imagine the implications of this little piece of knowledge. And PS- it's not always that there truly isn't enough room- sometimes it's just good old fashioned B.S.
Our sacrum is designed to be MOBILE. Ever heard of someone complaining of SI pain? They're referring to pain at this joint. The SI is the Sacroiliac JOINT. And why do we have joints? For movement, of course. Unfortunately, in our culture most of us don't have moveable sacrums anymore because we don't often put ourselves in positions that require the mobility of the SI. And the body works in a "use it or loose it" kinda way. The sacrum is designed to move in and away from the pelvic bowl. If you're a nerd like me, the technical term for the motion of the sacrum is "nutation and counter nutation." See picture below to see the joint that in an optimally functioning body allows the sacrum to move.
Next, let's consider the distance from the Sacrum to the Pubic Symphysis
For childbirth and also optimal pelvic floor health for ALL, it's optimal for the distance from the sacrum to the PS (pubic symphysis) to be greater. This will, in turn, lengthen the pelvic floor and bring it to a more optimal length (yay for pelvic floor health!) and create more space for a baby in the pelvic cavity.
There are 4 defined pelvis shapes, shown in the picture to the side. These are defined by measuring the pelvic inlet. This blog post isn't going to define the different types, but there is much information out there on the different types including this article from Spinning Babies. You can see that the Gynecoid pelvis is much rounder vs on the other side the platypelloid pelvis is much more oval. Let's use the platypelloid pelvic shape, for an example. You can see clearly from the picture of the pelvis shapes that platypelloid pelvi are more narrow from pubic symphysis to sacrum. This can create a more strenuous birthing process for all parties involved and more potential damage to the pelvic floor, to boot! But- once a platypelloid not necessarily ALWAYS a platypelloid.
PS- my computer likes to autocorrect that to "platypus" so be on the lookout for typos!
IF we change the way we move our body (skeleton!) around- we can increase the anteior/posterior distance in the pelvis (the distance from sacrum to pubic symphysis). Cool huh? I wouldn't worry so much about figuring out what shape of pelvis you have. If you already know- cool. If you don't know- this information is going to help ALL of us.
Here's a few starter tips for how to increase the anteior/posterior pelvic space and also helping to free of the sacrum so that it is more moveable:
1. Squat to elimiate. Seriously, get a squatty potty! I say this all the time, but our body is designed to SQUAT to eliminate. The squatting causes the illium to widen, which decompressed the SI joint... allowing it to move into the optimal position. (note: I'm an affiliate to squatty potty- by clicking on my banner you support a hard working mama)
2. Change the way you sit and stand.
I've discussed both of these before so I'll just post links to those posts:
~Where you pelvis is in relation to the rest of you
~Below is a short little video relating to pelvic alignment when sitting. Think about it this way. Either you are sitting ON your tailbone, or you are sitting on your SITTING BONES (ischial tuberosities). We want to avoid sitting on our tailbones because it draws the sacrum IN to the body- creating the opposite of what we want for easier birth (and pelvic floor function).
3. Hip opening and Squat Prep!
Just because squatting is awesome, doesn't mean that it's awesome FOR YOU AT THIS EXACT MOMENT IN TIME. Here's a post I did a while ago on the Squat
Truthfully, we must spend a lot of time doing squat PREP. Preparing our bodies to be able to squat more effectively so that we can get benefit from our more aligned squatting. We also need to lengthen our calves and hamstrings to give us the length we need to get deeper into the squat without compensating in some way. Since it's already been done- click on the squat post linked to above and within that blog post I linked to a post that will specifically take you through some of the squat prep exercises.
I have alluded many times to the fact that alignment helps with the birthing process. Here's how:
1. Creating more space in the pelvis
2. Removing the restrictions in the body that can cause baby to find a less than ideal fetal position. In other words, body alignment.... better yet, moving more with better body alignment... helps with optimal fetal positioning.
3. Decreasing upwards internal pressure gradient (thereby making pushing not so strenuous since we don't have to push down against an upward force).
In an ideal world, we'd have been moving throughout most of our lives, sitting on the floor, squatting to cook our food (what's with these convenient COUNTERS I tell you?!). But, this is not the case. We have been in one position for most of it. Sitting, in a chair. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing inherently wrong with sitting or with chairs. It's the amount of time we've spent over the course of our lives in mostly one position as opposed to a variety of them. Starting from kindergarden or sooner- sitting in a chair. Our pelvis, and really our whole body, has adapted to the position that we are in most of the time and has created restrictions. A shortened, tight psoas. Tightness and weakness in the lateral hip musculature. Habits of tucking the pelvis (thereby tightening the psoas even more), etc.
So, by optimizing our alignment, doing corrective exercises to lengthen the muscles that need to be lengthened, strengthening the muscles that need to be strengthened, releasing the tension in muscles that need that.... we can create a "paleo pelvis" That is... our pelvis will be become more like it was intended to be. The pelvis of our ancestors- who moved a LOT and did not have modern conveniences that have let to our bodies only being used in a very small variety of ways.
This might seem overwhelming to you. I know it does to me, some days. But the great thing about it is this: ANYthing you choose to do is going to help you. ANYthing is better than nothing. AND as soon as you start you'll start feeling better too. Don't Type A freak out about it- just realize that you aren't maybe where you want to be an start making steps towards a more healthier you with more abundant space in your pelvis to birth a baby through!
I'm not going to give you all the corrective exercises right now because it's not the time nor the place and that would be a LONG LONG blog, but I will give you some quick tips to get you started!
My quick tips:
1. Read Move Your DNA by Katy Bowman for the basics! I have copies if you're local and need one. She also sells it on her website and Amazon.
2. Start walking more and start moving and resting in a variety of ways. Change it up! What if you sat on the floor instead of the couch after dinner? What if you ate your dinner sitting on the floor? What if you changed the position of your legs while sitting on the floor (We always sit in the most comfortable position first so even crossing your legs the other way for a while is good!). Work more movement and standing throughout your day.
3. See you Restorative Exercise Specialist for an assessment and your corrective exercises!! There is lots of free info on the web- I give lots of it too! But there is something so helpful about someone trained looking at your body and helping you notice your "sticky spots" where you are not as mobile, or carrying tension, etc. I know that I thought I had it *FIGURED OUT*... until I went to my certification week and learned how little I really knew about how I was moving and stretching my body. I'm all about getting the most bang for my buck.... so you're going to get MORE out of everything you do if you are doing it correctly. So I can't stress how helpful seeing a RES was for ME and I bet you'd like it too!!
4. Squat to go to the bathroom. Seriously. Get a squatty potty (I have an affiliate link right here on my website if you want to support a super hard working mama!!). Our body is designed to SQUAT to eliminate!
*I will be covering the 3 different items: Pelvic space, optimal fetal positioning, and internal pressure gradient each in their own separate blog posts, stay tuned!
Mama Aligned is Lindsay McCoy.