Why We Crawl
I read a lot of the stuff on the Internet. I read a lot of really great information along with some weird shit and some stuff that just doesn’t really make any sense it all. A few years ago, I encountered someone that said pregnant women shouldn’t squat below parallel, which is the complete opposite of the truth. Recently, I read something that might be right up there with that ignorant phrase. I’m telling you this because you invest your time and hard earned money for legit information. You may not realize what is or isn’t bullshit when it comes to information regarding pregnancy, but I do and I’m happy to help you out.
What I read: avoid crawling type of exercises during pregnancy.
This was said in a fitness context (and was in particular directed at decreasing diastasis recti). Think about it. If you are a birth worker (Midwife, Nurse, Doula) or strength and conditioning coach, I want you to really freaking think about that phrase.
Being on all fours is a fundamental movement; crawling is a fundamental movement pattern. Fundamental movement patterns are essential for control of posture as well as locomotion (1). Babies are born with immature motor patterns and even with diastasis rectus abdominis (Filling the Gap Blog). Babies’ curiosity drives their development through exploration and learning. Movements happen in a sequence and crawling is a really freaking big milestone. If milestones are not met or maintained, then we have a problem in the hips, shoulder, back, or somewhere, but I guarantee we have a problem. And yes, this includes during pregnancy and the postpartum period.
Crawling will establish shoulder, elbow, and wrist stability, plus a stable scapulo-thoracic articulation (2). Crawling also demands stable hips, pelvis, and axial skeleton, aka your core (3). Rolling over and starting to crawl are crucial in establishing a strong core in babies, and it’s this movement sequence that we use to help our BIRTHFIT moms maintain stability during pregnancy and re-establish a solid foundation postpartum. It makes no sense to eliminate this crucial pattern from training.
At BIRTHFIT, we program movements like bird dog and bear crawl and functional progression three because these are not only a fantastic and functional way to train your core (pregnant or not), these get baby out of the pelvis for a brief period of time and helps to enhance optimal positioning. Getting baby out of pelvis and moving through all the available space is really important for someone who has a baby that is lying transverse or breech at the moment or is just not in the ideal position. By moving around on all fours, baby, within the uterus, shifts the load distribution. When mom is ready to be vertical again the ligaments between the sacrum and the uterus will direct baby right back into pelvis, ideally with baby’s head directly on top of cervix.
We also program these movements because crawling has the potential to be really fucking comfortable in labor for some women. We like to give our moms as many options as possible during labor and birth. When on all fours your sacrum lifts up and the pelvic outlet widens. (Read for yourself in the book Active Birth). You tell a woman with back labor to crawl or move around on all fours, and she might make out with you. Back labor is thought to occur when the baby is posterior and labor is progressing, but slowly (by the way, this is a normal variation).
Currently, many are speculating that the increase in breech presentation or posteriorly presented babies has to do with a sedentary population that does not spend much time in the squat and all fours.
Working along the basic human movement continuum throughout your pregnancy, and adhering to basic human movement patterns postpartum gives mom a strength foundation with sustainability. Taking away a basic human movement pattern as essential and critical as crawling is definitely one of those things that I’m going to call bullshit on. When reading health advice on the Internet, think to yourself: does this make sense? If it doesn’t, find something else to read.
Dr. Lindsey Mathews, DC
Dr. Lindsay Mumma, DC
Dr. Erica Boland, DC
- Kolar, P., Kobesova, A. Postural-Locomotion Function in the Diagnosis and Treatment of Movement Disorders: Summary for the Lecture. https://birthfit.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/DNS20ECU20summary.pdf
- Kobesova, A., et al. Effects of shoulder girdle dynamic stabilization exercise on hand muscle strength. Isokinetics and Exercise Science 23 (2015) 21–32. https://birthfit.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/ies00560.pdf
- Frank, C. et al. Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization & Sports Rehabilitation. The International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy. Vol 8, No. 1 pp 62-73. February 2013. https://birthfit.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/DNS_IJSPT_paper.pdf