“Hug the Baby”

Hi! Welcome to Hug the Baby!

“Hug the baby” is a term I use to describe proper posture during pregnancy supporting the weight of the baby, and protecting vulnerable joints by engaging the abdominals while pregnant.

Instead of ‘belly to the spine,’ I say ‘baby to the spine’ or ‘hug the baby.’ The action of hugging the baby or bringing baby to the spine, brings the fetus closer to the body so the extra weight does not compromise posture or add weight onto the spine and surrounding joints.

Safe For All 3 Trimesters 

Why Hug the Baby

By learning to ‘hug the baby,’ we:

1. Strengthen the abs and pelvic floor

2. Prevents and alleviates back pain by supporting our surrounding joints.

3. Feel stronger and more in-control over what is happening to our bodies.

4. Decrease our succeptibility to Diastasis Recti

5. Overall we keep our posture in tip-top shape!

If you have ever been pregnant, you may know the pains associated with the amazing changes the body goes through to prepare for the growth of the fetus and ultimately the birth.

Hugging the baby helps to alleviate those pains!

How to Hug the Baby

As with any form of physical activity, please check with your doctor before starting a new workout routine

Hugging the Baby:

1. Stand up tall, lengthening the spine to the ceiling, like you have a string on the top of your head.

2. Inhale, allowing air to fill the lungs, expanding the sides and back of the ribs (Lateral Thoracic Breathing).  

2. Exhale, hugging the baby (pulling baby or belly to the spine), while also lifting the pelvic floor. Keep the pelvis neutral (don’t tuck). This action contracts the transverse abdominals and  pelvic floor creating a total support system for the fetus. 

4.  Feel equal weight on your feet, pressing down into the floor. You should feel a vertical,  oppositional pull through the spine, up through the top of the head, down through your feet.

5. Continue with lateral thoracic breathing feeling the spine lengthen every time you exhale.

Poor posture is simply an invitation for life-stopping back pain. No matter where you are, think about lifting your head up and back, as if a string were pulling the top of your head toward the ceiling. As you lift up, you relieve some of the tension in your spine. (YOU Having a Baby, pg. 216)

Hug the Baby Posture 2nd Trimester

Hug the Baby Posture 2nd Trimester

NOT Hugging the Baby

NOT Hugging the Baby with Horrible Posture!

Hugging the Baby
When to Hug the Baby
  • On all 4’s when gravity is pulling baby away from your center
  • When standing for long periods of time and your back begins to hurt – at the grocery store, in the kitchen, etc.
  • Any time you’re working out
  • Driving
  • Doing chores
  • Getting out of bed or into bed
  • Blow drying your hair
  • When your laying on the couch and your cat, dog, or kid is about to walk over your stomach
  • Can you think of any others?
Hug the Baby extras

Anytime we practice a certain position for long periods, the muscles and joints can become tight and uncomfortable. This is why breathing is crucial, and checking to make sure your posture is active – having energy through the spine with supported limbs, not tight, static limbs.

To prevent tightening up, add Pelvic Tilts and Standing Roll-Downs to Hug the Baby. These movements will keep the spine mobile and help prevent pain, especially in the low back.

Pelvic Tilting

Neutral - Your neutral or natural position when standing.

1. “Hug the Baby” Neutral – Your neutral or natural position when standing.

Pelvic Tilt: C-Curve-Tucking the Pelvis

2. Pelvic Tilt:             C-Curve-Tucking the Pelvis

Neutral - Your neutral or natural position when standing.

3. Return to Hug the Baby posture


Hug the Baby Posture

1. Hug the Baby Posture-Inhale

2. Tuck the Chin and Soften the Knees

2. Exhale – Tuck the Chin and Soften the Knees (this helps soften the low back)


3. Continue Exhlae-Roll-Down (You can roll-down as far as you comfortably can)

4. Inhale at bottom

4. Inhale at bottom

4. Roll up keeping knees slightly bent, hugging the baby.

5.  Exhale – Roll up keeping knees slightly bent, hugging the baby.

Hug the Baby Posture

6. Return to Hug the Baby Posture

The beauty of these simple movements is that they can be done anywhere, at almost anytime. Yes, I’m talking about standing in the long line at the kids’ consignment sale and your back begins to get tight. I’m sure some savvy moms would be happy to join right in on some tilting and rolling with you! And if you’ve got little ones, get them in on the action too!

Contact Me! Alison B. Marsh at



YOU: Having a Baby, Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen MD

Copyright 2015

Healthy pregnancy

The Beauty of Weight Gain: Part 1 of 2

I have always been a skinny girl. The kind of skinny girl that people walk up to and say “you are sooo skinny!” And then look me straight in the face and say “I hate you,” most likely implying they hate that I don’t gain weight and that they do. I’ve also heard more then once, “You need to eat a sandwich.”

Me, Alison Marsh, Kauai September 2014, 2 months before I got pregnant.

Me (Alison Marsh) Kauai, Hawaii September 2014                                 2 monthsbefore I got pregnant.

I was always insecure about being thin; having very little womanly flesh on me. So I am gladly embracing this hip and rib-cage widening that is going on, and my generally flat, muscley stomach that is now protruding from my belly (please don’t hate me).

I feel like a woman! I am blessed to have the opportunity to grow a human inside my body!

(In part 2 of The Beauty of Weight Gain, I will address the psychological effects that women experience due to their changing physiques.)

With the body expanding in all directions, naturally comes discomfort and major adjustments.

I didn’t expect how my body would gain weight and expand so quickly, and how I would have to adjust.

Me at 26 weeks, 145 lbs.

Me at 26 weeks, 145 lbs.

Late in my first trimester, within a few weeks, I gained 10 pounds, bringing me to 135lbs. (For perspective, a jug of milk weighs 8-10 lbs., depending on if it is skim or whole.) I remember having to work harder to move.

  • Going up the stairs to the second floor in our house was much more challenging on my legs, and I would lose my breath easily.
  • Because of the laxity in my joints and ligaments, particularly in the pelvis, I had to work harder at keeping my pelvic floor and protruding abdominals engaged and lifted.
  • Also, fatigue is common in the first trimester, due to the immense changes happening in the body in preparation to house a fetus for 9 months.

All of these major changes are preparing the pregnant body for the marathon of labor and child birth, also termed “D-Day” for delivery day.

Adjusting to the Changes


I am beginning my 7th month now and weigh about 145lb., having gained 20lbs total since becoming pregnant. Every time I gain, my body feels it, and I have to readjust – working harder then before, yet, becoming stronger then ever!

Dr. Clapp, the writer of Exercising Through Your Pregnancy, shares this about strength:

No one has looked at whether muscle mass or muscle function (the force and velocity of contraction) changes during pregnancy. However, several observations suggest that both muscle mass and strength increase. First, in the only study which it has been measure, lean body mass after pregnancy was about five percent greater than before pregnancy (Little, Clapp, and Ridzon 1995). As bone mineral is unchanged, the difference is probably due to an increase in muscle mass. Second, the fact that a woman carries around an additional 20 or more pounds during late pregnancy should increase muscle size and strength in the lower extremities.

Weight gain in pregnancy = stronger muscles!

Joints and Ligaments

Quick Anatomy Review:

Joints connect bone to bone with the support of ligaments. Most joints allow our bodies to move freely: knee joints, hip joints, shoulder joints. But some joints provide limited movement such as the SI Joint and the Pubic Symphysis Joint, which are further supported by ligaments.

Ligaments connect from bone to bone in order to form and support a joint, often deriving from the outer layer of the joint capsule. Ligaments provide strength and stability to inhibit hyper-mobility of the joint. The pelvic area is covered in ligamentous tissue.

Ligaments have an abundance of sensory nerve cells, making them capable of responding to movement and speed. This also makes them capable of sending pain signals to the brain. Yet, they have very little blood supply, making them difficult to heal. Once a ligament is overstretched, it most likely will not return to its original supportive state.

Click here to view a video on The Anatomy of the Pelvis by Nail A. Ebraheim, M.D.

The joints and ligaments of a woman’s hips and pelvis are designed to move and adjust as the pregnancy progresses, in preparation for “D-Day!”

This is due to the rise in hormone levels, particularly progesterone and relaxin. Add weight to hyper-flexible joints and ligaments, and you get pain and discomfort, most likely caused by instability.

The following is a list of the most common complaints caused by the loosening of the joints and ligaments in the pelvic area, and the added weight and expansion of the uterus; From The Pregnant Body Book – DK Publishing (THE most comprehensive, illustrated guide from conception to birth)

  • Pressure on the vertebrae causes pain around the coccyx (tail-bone)
  • Inflammation of the sacroiliac (SI) Joint causes pain in the middle and lower back
  • Pubic symphysis joint strain leads to pain in the front of the pelvis

How Pilates Can Help:

Dr. James F. Clapp III. M.D., writer of Exercising Through Your Pregnancy, says that regular exercise should offset the effects of pregnancy on ligamentous laxity [loose joints], improve strength, maintain muscle tone, and reduce the incidence of low-back pain and other musculoskeletal complaints.

With the Pilates method’s focus on core strength, we are able to counterbalance gravity’s pull on our joints and ligaments through properly engaging and using our core muscles, which includes Hugging the Baby, and practicing proper posture in all activities of daily living (ADL’s). 

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) suggests 30 minutes of moderate exercise on most, if not all, days of the week for a healthy pregnancy. Click here for the ACOG’s FAQs about Exercise During Pregnancy.

Simple Leg (Leg Presses) – Reformer

Simple Leg Presses with hand weights.

Simple Leg Press with 2 lb. hand weights-Step 1

Simple Leg Press

Simple Leg Press – Step 2

  • Start on Heels
  • Keep Pelvis Neutral
  • Hug the Baby
  • Legs Wide – 3 Sets: Parallel, Turned Out, Turned In.
    • Can also work on balls of the feet, and with legs under hips.
  • Use 2-5 lb. weights, depending on strength.
  • Engage Lattisimus dorsi muscles to keep upper trapezeus from overworking. 
Propping Heart Above Baby
  • We are using a slightly deflated big ball to keep Rachel (our model) propped up –heart above the baby to prevent supine hypotensive syndrome-a condition that is caused by the weight of the uterus compressing the inferior vena cava vein when a pregnant woman lays on her back for long periods.
  • 3 minutes is the general rule for the amount of time a pregnant woman should lay flat on her back in the later 2nd and through the 3rd trimester.
  • You can also use a Jump Board in place of the ball. There are pregnancy Pilatesbolsters made specifically for this purpose, but my pregnant clients and I have found that a big ball or the jump board are much more comfortable and more efficient.
  • Watch for too much extension (arching) in the low-back. Put a small pillow under the low-back if mom is having a hard time keeping neutral.
  • Use a jump-board to prop mom's heart above the baby.

    Use a jump-board to prop mom’s heart above the baby.

    Use a jump-board to prop mom's heart above the baby.


Gaining strength in the lower limbs and core is crucial for taking on the demands of added weight as pregnancy progresses.

In Part 2 of The Beauty of Weight-Gain, I will add more exercises and touch on positive body image during pregnancy.

Questions or Comments? Please fill out the form below!

Thank You for investing your time to learn about pregnancy Pilates!

Happy Hundreds,

Alison Marsh


EXERCISING THROUGH YOUR PREGNANCY by James F. Clapp. Omaha, Nebraska. Addicus Books, Inc., 2002.

THE PREGNANT BODY BOOK New York, New York. DK Publishing. 2011.

PREPARING FOR A GENTLE BIRTH: THE PELVIS IN PREGNANCY by Blandine Calais-Germain and Nuria Vives Pares. Rochester, Vermont. Healing Arts Press, 2009.

Check out the following links to the ACOG’s FAQs about the following topics for further information:

Exercise During Pregnancy

Nutrition During Pregnancy

Obesity During Pregnancy

Please visit my Resource Page for a growing list of informative videos, article, books, and websites. Also check out the links on the right side of this site.

What is pressing up against my ribs??

I am in my 6th month of pregnancy, and for the last couple of weeks, when I lean over, I feel a tingling sensation in my lower ribs. I’m thinking “I still have 4 more months to go, and I can already feel my organs pressing into my ribs!?!?”

Leaning over, my organs are pressing into my ribs!

Leaning over, my organs are pressing into my ribs!

Sitting up takes the pressure off my ribs.

Sitting up takes the pressure off my ribs.

I know a simple adjustment of my posture takes the pressure off, for now. But as baby grows taking me into my 3rd trimester, he will proceed further up my torso along with all my organs that use to be placed perfectly below my ribs.

What is pressing up against my ribs??

Anatomy of internal organs of female body in blue

The Uterus during pregnancy can increase it’s capacity by 1,000 times! From the size of a walnut to the size of a watermelon!

  • The Diaphragm flattens as it becomes more difficult to take deep breaths

– Remedied by Lateral Thoracic Breathing

  • The Stomach is compacted, causing a full feeling after a meal –

-Remedied by eating smaller portions more often.

  • The Colon becomes compacted, causing constipation (also caused by progesterone slowing down the intestines)

– Remedied by eating plenty of fiber-rich foods, and exercising, which gets stuff moving!

The AMAZING uterus will increase its capacity by 1,000 times by the end of a full-term pregnancy causing the organs to compact and push up against the ribs. (See pics below)

3rd Trimester showing how the organs become compacted up the torso

3rd Trimester showing how the organs become compacted up the torso

1st Trimester into the 2nd trimester, the uterus has expanded, but isn't causing too much interference yet.

1st Trimester into the 2nd trimester, the uterus has expanded, but isn’t causing too much interference yet.

2nd Trimester into the 3rd trimester, the uterus is now pushing the organs up, beginning to cause several discomforts, including pressure in the ribs.

2nd Trimester into the 3rd trimester, the uterus is now pushing the organs up, beginning to cause several discomforts, including pressure in the ribs.

How Pilates can Help:

All 4’s – Oppositional Reaching

  • Lengthens the spine and torso, creating space for the expanding uterus
  • Strengthens the core
  • Strengthens balance and proprioception – the awareness of your body moving through space


1. Start in Neutral Pelvis – Inhale – Hug the baby; Push away from the mat; Keep focus down. You should feel a long line from out through the top of your head, and down through the tail.

2. Slide Opposite Arm and Leg across mat – Exhale– You should feel the arm and leg sliding away from each other. It is important that the hand and foot are making contact with the mat before they lift off.

3. Float and Reach arm and leg up – Continue to Exhale – Keep focus down and reach long, feeling an oppositional pull.

4. Reach, lengthening the spine – Breath slowly – Make sure to keep hugging the baby, keeping a neutral pelvis. Lift the arm only as high as the ear and the leg parallel and straight, staying in-line with the hip.


  • Balance in this position for up to 10 seconds by continuing to reach in opposite directions, keeping a neutral pelvis, and pushing away from the mat with the supporting arm and leg. Breath slowly.
  • Repeat on the other side, doing each side 5 times (a suggestion). The number of repetitions is not important. The quality of the movement is more important than quantity. 
  • I have my toes tucked under. This provides more stability and stretches the feet. If having the toes tucked is uncomfortable or difficult, keep them flat.

Oppositional Reaching


  • Creates space through the torso
  • Emphasizes lifting through the sides rather then collapsing

1. Stand Tall squeezing arms to ears, reach up to the sky and down through your feet, hugging the baby.

2. Lift Up and begin to reach over, lifting up and over, being careful not collapse in the side your bending from.

3. Continue to reach over, leading with the ball

4. Let opposite hip reach away and turn head to look up to the opposite diagonal.


  • Inhale before each movement, and exhale moving into each movement.
  • Keep baby to the spine-Hugging the baby.
  • Careful not to arch the back

Standing Side Stretch-Rib StretchThank You for visiting HUG the BABY! Questions? Comments? Fill out the form below, or email me, Alison Marsh, at

Pelvic girdle

Hip and Pelvic Pain during Pregnancy

Pelvic Pain- Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction (SPD) 

The miracle of growing a human in your body also comes with the miracle of just the right amount of changes, that include pain in several areas!

As early as the first trimester of pregnancy, a woman may begin to feel pain in her sacrum (as I did). As the fetus grows and the uterus expands into the second trimester, more pains expand into the body, including the infamous pelvic and hip pain.

Walking, standing, sitting, rolling over in bed, can all be painful due to the shifting and loosening of the hip and pelvic joints. This loosening is preparing those hips to accompany a small human to enter the world.

the pregnant Pelvis: What’s Happening to My Body?!?!

Here is a short anatomy and physiology lesson on the pregnant pelvis:

Hormones Relaxin and Progesterone

These remarkable hormones are responsible for the loosening of the joints and ligaments, particularly in the hips and pelvis-the sacroiliac joints and pubic symphysis joint (explained below).  While this is absolutely necessary to accompany the growing fetus and expanding pregnant uterus, and ultimately the birth, the instability causes pain in the hips and pelvis. These hormones also cause lax joints and ligaments in other areas of the body, resulting in issues such as a pregnant woman’s susceptibility to sprained ankles.

The Sacrum 

 Pelvic JointsThis fused vertebrae, posterior (in the back of) of the pelvis, provides maximum stability for the spine when positioned neutrally. In pregnancy, the top of pelvis tends to tilt anteriorly (forward), causing sacrum to tilt up and the low back to sway into an exaggerated arch (lordosis.)

Pelvic tilts (shown below) can help mom-to-be find her neutral during pregnancy, bringing the sacrum back to its most stable position.

Sacroilliac Joints

These joints attach the sacrum to the hip bones, normally allowing limited movement in the sacrum (nutation and counternutation). During pregnancy, these joints loosen (due to the hormones relaxin and progesterone) causing hyper mobility, contributing to the pelvic pain problem.

Pubic Symphysis Joint 

This is a normally a somewhat flexible band of cartilage that links the two halves of the pelvis together, allowing independent movement of the hip bones while walking. Loosening of this joint is the primary reason for pelvic pain. In women, the pubic symphysis is created wider and more flexible than in men to allow the pelvis to stretch during child-birth.

Pelvic Floor

The pelvic floor is a group of small, long muscles that create a sling-like support in the pelvis. These muscles connect to the joints of the sacrum, coccyx, and hip bones. A strong, flexible pelvic floor helps to stabilize the upper torso and hip area, prevents incontinence (peeing when you laugh), supports the weight of the uterus, bladder, and bowels, and makes the bladder and bowels functional. The pelvic floor works with the transverse abdominals to provide optimum stability of the core.

How Pilates can Help:

Pelvic Floor Strengthening and Awareness

Proper strengthening and awareness involves learning how to contract and release the pelvic floor muscles without involving the butt muscles, inner thighs, or abdominals. Kegels are the most popular form of pelvic floor exercises. In addition to Kegels, try this exercise:

Zipping and Unzipping

1. Become aware of the pelvic floor by contracting and releasing.Zipping Up

2. Imagine your pelvic floor is a zipper. Start at the bottom of the ‘zip’ and slowly contract the pelvic walls together as if zipping up a pair of jeans.

3. Once you have zipped to the top, slowly begin to ‘unzip’ the pelvic walls

Do this 5-10 times at least once a day. The great thing about practicing pelvic floor exercises is you can do them anywhere and no one needs to know (so if you do end up practicing while standing in-line at the store, be aware of your facial expressions!)

This practice of contracting and releasing control is incredibly beneficial during all stages of pregnancy, before and after. During the 3rd trimester, put emphasis on releasing the pelvic floor to prepare for the birth.

 Pelvic Tilts

Much of the problem with pain stems from the body’s effort to rebalance its center of gravity. Pelvic tilts along with proper engagement of the pelvic floor will help keep the low back from tightening up, and keep the pelvis properly aligned as the uterus grows.

1. Stand in your neutral position (Image A.)

2. Engage the pelvic floor, then tilt the top of your pelvis back and the sacrum and tailbone under. This is your pelvic tilt. (Image B.)

3. Return to Neutral and repeat pelvic tilt 5-10 times. Can be done every day, multiple times a day.

Neutral - Your neutral or natural position when standing.

A. Neutral – Your neutral or natural position when standing.

Pelvic Tilt: C-Curve-Tucking the Pelvis

B. Pelvic Tilt: C-Curve-Tucking the Pelvis

Click here for a comprehensive list of resources related to anatomy and pregnancy 

Thank you for investing your time on Hug the Baby!

I would love to hear from you! Questions? Comments? E-mail me, Alison B, Marsh, at or fill out the form below.

Pregnant Breathing: Lateral Thoracic Breathing

The pregnant body goes through miraculous changes to support the even more miraculous human being growing inside of the womb. One of those changes is in the respiratory system.

At rest the amount of air breathed increases by 40-50% or more because of an increase in the depth of each breath. This is a result of elevated levels of progesterone, which initiates over-breathing, by increasing the sensitivity of the respiratory center in the brain to carbon dioxide. (Dr. Clapp, 28)

In addition to these system changes, are the physical changes happening within the torso. As the uterus expands upward, the diaphragm is pushed upward (along with the other organs in the way such as the stomach and colon) and the ribcage expands. This is why Lateral Thoracic Breathing is beneficial, allowing for efficiency of breath. 

How to Breath Efficiently:

1. Inhale through the nose, filling the lungs by focusing the breath into the back like your filling a balloon (your diaphragm)
– Back and sides of the ribs should expand
– Allow the chest to rise

2.  Exhale through the mouth, deflating the lungs like your deflating a balloon

– Lengthen Spine
– Back of the ribs should pull back in
– Belly sinks back further – Hugging the baby to your spine

Lateral Thoracic Breathing

Lateral Thoracic Breathing Handout Complimentary PDF

Why Lateral Thoracic Breathing?

-to create space in your torso for your growing baby by lengthening your spine and stretching the ribcage. 

-to take more efficient breaths providing more oxygen for you and baby, 

-to relieve stress by calming the nervous system.

Contact Alison B. Marsh at