When you are pregnant you may notice your body feels very differently. You may have aches and pains where you normally don’t. You might feel less flexible than normal and a lot more stiff. Stretching can help with all of these, but it can offer so many more benefits as well.
It can help you stay fit, feel relaxed, and be even better prepared for labor!
Relaxin within the Pregnant Body
During pregnancy a hormone known as relaxin is present at an increased level within the body. This hormone helps the body to relax the cervix and ligaments during childbirth. It also helps to loosen and lubricate the joints and ligaments in the body, especially the pelvis.
Because this hormone is so affluent throughout the body during pregnancy, you need to be careful to not overstretch. When stretching try not to overdo it and take things easy as your body is quite different than it was before pregnancy.
If you were quite the avid yogi before pregnancy, it is important to take it easy and not “jump right back in.” Try not to go too deep within your poses and take it slow.
Be sure to always get your doctor’s approval before practicing prenatal yoga or any new exercise routine during pregnancy. Certain pregnancy complications may make certain exercises dangerous.
Tips for Safe Stretching During Pregnancy
Here are a few guidelines for general comfort and safety while stretching:
- Wear loose, comfortable clothing and a supportive sports bra.
- Stop when you are tired, if you experience any pain, or if you feel your heart pounding in your chest.
- Avoid stretching in extreme humidity or heat.
- Drink plenty of water before, during, and after.
- Get up slowly from sitting or lying to avoid becoming dizzy or passing out.
- When standing, keep your knees slightly bent; don’t lock them.
- Move slowly and gently, your joints and ligaments are constantly more relaxed while pregnant.
- Hold each stretch for at least ten to 30 seconds.
- Don’t bounce or force a stretch beyond your comfort.
- Use your breathe. Exhale as you stretch and inhale as you return to your starting position.
Stretches to try while Pregnant
We have put together a list of safe stretches to do throughout your pregnancy. Keep in mind that the way the stretch feels may change over time as your body grows with your baby.
- Low Back Stretch – Rest on your hands and knees with your head in a parallel line with your spine. Draw in your stomach, round your black slightly while doing so. Hold this for several seconds and then relax your stomach and back. Try to keep your back as flat as possible, but do not let it sag. Repeat this up to ten times.
- This stretch can help to ease backaches.
- Backward Stretch – Start on your hands and knees. Keep your arms straight and your hand directly beneath your shoulders. Curl your back towards your heels as far as is comfortable. Then, tuck your head toward your knees and keep your arms extended. Hold this position for ten to 30 seconds and then return to your starting position. Repeat this up to ten times.
- This pose helps to stretch your back, pelvis, and thighs.
- Seated Piriformis Stretch – You will need a chair. Sit on the chair with your feet flat on the floor. Cross one foot over the other knee making the shape of the number 4. As you exhale, slowly lean forward while keeping a flat back. Do this until you feel a stretch in your lower back and buttocks. Hold this position for 30 seconds, then repeat on the other side. Repeat this up to ten times.
- This stretch helps to ease low back or sciatic pain.
- Bound Angle Pose – Sit on a yoga mat and bend your knees, bringing the soles of your feet together in front of you. Grab your toes and draw your feet gently towards your pelvis. With a deep inhale, sit up tall on your sitting bones, make sure that you are not tucking your pelvis. As you exhale, gently press your knees to the ground. Keep your spine straight and gently begin to bend at the hips towards your feet bringing your torso towards the ground. Do not push farther than what feels comfortable, then drop your neck to your chin. Hold this pose for three to five slow, deep breathes, then rise back up. You can repeat this up to ten times.
- This stretch helps your inner thighs, neck, and back.
- Forward Fold – Begin by standing on a mat with your feet pointed forward, slightly wider than hip-width apart. With a flat back, begin to lean forward and slightly lower your hands towards the floor. Do this until you feel a stretch down the back of your legs. If you need more support, you can rest your hands anywhere that is comfortable, but try to avoid the knee joint. Hold this position for 30 seconds. Repeat this stretch three times.
- This stretch helps with the hamstrings. Tight hamstrings can lead to pain within the legs, lower back, and issues with movement.
Staying Active during Pregnancy
Part of healthy pregnancy requires staying active and moving your body. Now is not the time to go out and take on a new intense workout regime, but rather the time to find a training routine that works for you and your changing body. Keep in mind there are training guidelines you want to adhere to for every trimester to help ensure the safest pregnancy possible.
You want to try to exercise for about 30 minutes per day on most days of the week. If you did not exercise regularly before pregnancy a great place to start is walking and slow easy stretching. Keep in mind that your center of gravity shifts as your baby grows, the risk of falling does increase the further along you are in your pregnancy.
By taking the time to exercise and stretch throughout your pregnancy, you are providing a healthy environment for your little one to grow within and thrive. They will also help to make labor and childbirth that much easier on you.