Twisting While Pregnant

There are a lot of misconceptions / myths and fear mongering regarding prenatal exercise. One of the misconceptions / myths that I still hear quite frequently is that during pregnancy one should not twist. That twisting while pregnant is bad. There are a variety of reasons given and in this blog I will go through each claim and look at what the evidence really says.

Claim: Open twists are okay. Closed twists are not.

This is one that I hear a lot.

Open twists are okay, but “closed twists” are not. The prevailing argument against closed twists is a comfort one, nothing else. Meaning, if it is comfortable to do so – go for it. If not, then skip it the same way you would skip belly sleeping. There is no actual scientific, medical reason to not do a closed twist. The amount of fear mongering around it makes it seem like it is super dangerous but in fact – it is just not that comfortable for some people. Just like what we suggest with being smart and mindful of boundaries with stretching, do not push a client beyond their boundary into a deep compressive twist. But twisting towards the leg, done mindfully, is okay.

Claim: Twisting can cause uterine torsion.

There is zero evidence of this. Actually – controlled, mindful twisting can actually *prevent* this, especially in the case where one might need to do a sudden trunk rotation. If the nervous system (that which controls the whole body) feels safe and can control our trunk in a rotation/twist, it is much less likely to cause any sort of an issue if a sudden rotation were to occur. If your body has not experienced rotational movement of the trunk in a long time, how well do you think it will handle a sudden one? Not well. Rotation is a natural human movement, it would be near impossible to avoid doing it and ideally – your body is “strong” and “capable” when doing it.

Claim: Do not twist in the first trimester due to implantation.

I completely understand how difficult it is when an individual is wanting so desperately to be and stay pregnant. We search for any possible way to encourage the process. However, I simply can not find any hard evidence to back this up. Our trunk is designed to twist! Twisting in a movement classes as well as throughout the day, is going to consist of maybe several minutes at a time. Nobody is holding their body in a twist for hours at a time.

Claim: Twisting can increase diastasis recti (abdominal separation).

The opposite is true. While the science does not yet know for certain how/if we can truly prevent diastasis recti (anyone claiming otherwise is selling snake oil). The core musculature needs to yield to accommodate the growing baby. So having the ability to move in a variety of positions will assist the core in its ability to yield in all planes. In addition to that, not utilizing your obliques may render them weak and possibly even tight. As a very important core muscle, we want it to work to move our body in various planes. That is the definition of core health and limiting that could in fact be problematic for your core.

Claim: Twisting can cause issues with baby positioning.

I am not sure where this is coming from. Perhaps it is from the idea that we need balance in the uterus to help baby find an optimal position. So yes, if one were literally stuck into a twist position that would probably not be a good scenario. However, part of having a balanced structure is the ability of that structure to move functionally into and out of many different movements. Having a functional core can actually support baby’s position in utero, so twisting (a healthy core move) makes sense for someone wanting their baby to be in an optimal position. Too often, our pelvis and our rib cage cannot move independent of one another and again – this rigidity is not ideal for the core system. Rotational movements will help with fostering this differentiation, so they should not be eliminated!

Here’s the thing. Our everyday life requires varying degrees of twisting. Recommending a pregnant person to completely eliminate twisting is like telling them to never turn their neck to the side. Imagine if we only looked straightforward for 9 months what would happen after those 9 months were up? Or if we suddenly needed to turn the head to the side because of something happening in our life. Much higher likelihood of injury. Twisting is an essential movement for our core system, which we know is under great load during pregnancy. I am not saying to go crazy and be excessive with your twisting. I am saying rotational movements of the trunk are an essential part of prenatal exercise programming and will allow your clients to have better control and function within the core system during pregnancy and beyond.