As pregnant women, we don’t have to suffer through the aches and pains of pregnancy. There are ways to lessen them, and stretching is a great way to do so. Incorporate stretching into your daily routine, and relieve that muscle tension to improve relaxation and comfort during pregnancy.
Benefits of Stretching During Pregnancy
Following a healthy lifestyle during pregnancy can help you feel your best. Eating healthy and exercising are two ways to significantly improve your mood and activity levels. But you don’t have to suddenly become a marathon runner. Stretching is an often overlooked form of exercise that can be vital to a healthy pregnancy.
Exercise can feel like a daunting task, especially if you are dealing with common pregnancy symptoms like nausea and fatigue. But don’t write it off just yet! A healthy exercise habit doesn’t mean you have to physically exert yourself while your body is already working at its maximum to grow your baby. Stretching exercises alone have many benefits for you and your baby during pregnancy. Let’s get into them!
As your pregnancy progresses, your growing baby will put more pressure on your lower back and can shift your posture, causing back pain. Your ligaments will also stretch, and the weight on your hips will increase. Stretching can help alleviate these aches and pains and relax tight muscles.
Having a daily exercise routine can not only lessen pain but also improve your range of motion. This added mobility can make for a more comfortable pregnancy experience.
Stretching has many of the same benefits as other exercises, including increasing your circulation. Increasing the blood flow around your body allows for more oxygenated blood to circulate to your uterus and your baby.
Stretching can help you maintain a healthy weight by keeping you moving and active during your pregnancy.
Adding a gentle, safe stretching routine in the third trimester can bring help with childbirth by loosening those tight joints and easing body discomfort beforehand.
There are mental benefits to stretching as well. Creating a stretching routine can increase relaxation and quiet the mind. This can help decrease insomnia, fatigue, and depression, and you’ll feel more rested and happy!
Stretching is a vital form of exercise during pregnancy so you can relax and feel good. For added support, consider a glider where you can rest and elevate your feet. The Glider Plus has added lumbar support, making it a great choice for added back support and mobility during your pregnancy and beyond.
Top 9 Pregnancy Stretches
Now that we know the benefits of stretching for pregnant women (and for everyone!), let’s get into the top nine pregnancy stretches you can incorporate into your day-to-day. Just remember to check with your doctor before starting any new exercise routine.
This exercise is great for relieving pelvic and lower back pain. It stretches your hip flexors, along with your glutes, and pelvis.
Begin by lying on your back with your knees bent and the soles of your feet on the floor. If you have reached 20 weeks of pregnancy, you shouldn't stay in this position for long since lying on your back is not advised after that point.
Bring your heels to the ground and press your pelvis up. Try to get your chest and knees in a straight line as you hold this pose for ten seconds. Using a yoga block or a bolster may help you maintain this stretch for a longer period of time if you need extra support.
This gentle, open twist is an ideal back stretch to relieve low back tension.
Begin in a seated position on the floor with your legs crossed, or in a chair with both feet flat on the floor.
Take your left hand and place it on your right knee, and put your right hand on the floor or the back of the chair behind you. Keep your back straight, and hold the stretch for 5-10 seconds. Then repeat on the other side.
It doesn’t have to be a deep stretch to be beneficial. A small, gentle twist is safe for your pelvis and uterus.
For added back pain relief, invest in a chair like The Glider with a power recline feature so you can kick your feet up and take the pressure off your back. For even more back pain relief, try the The Glider Plus, one of the only gliders on the market that features power lumbar support.
Kneeling Cat-Cow Stretch
Growing a human can significantly alter posture and cause undue tension on the back. This is a safe and effective stretch that will help you open up your upper body.
Begin by kneeling on the floor, with the tops of your feet on the ground.
With a straight back and arms at your sides, begin to lower toward your heels while you exhale and bring your arms out in front of you. Round your shoulders as you stretch your arms forward and gently lower your head.
As you inhale, bring your arms back down to your sides and raise your head toward the ceiling. Tighten your glutes to help you rise back up off your heels. Repeat a few times to relieve chest tension and upper back pain.
Side Neck Stretch
Very few of us walk around without neck and shoulder pain. Whether you’re sitting at a desk or taking care of your littles, this is an easy stretch to repeat intermittently throughout the day.
While in a comfortable seated position, drop your left ear toward your left shoulder, keeping your shoulders down and relaxed. You should feel a nice stretch down the side of your neck. If you want to deepen the stretch, place your hand on your head for a gentle pull toward your shoulder.
Seated Side Stretch
Your abdominal muscles are stretching to accommodate your growing belly, which can lead to them feeling tight. You need a safe stretch for them that won’t put too much added pressure, which could make any muscle separation worse. Try this gentle abdominal stretch for some relief.
Begin by kneeling with your left leg out behind you and your right foot tucked in against your left knee. Stabilize yourself with your right hand on the ground, fingertips facing behind you.
Exhale and bring your left arm up and over as you gently push your hips forward.
Inhale as you lower yourself back to a neutral position.
As your center of balance shifts, your posture may suffer, causing some shoulder discomfort. This simple stretch can help you loosen up those tight shoulder muscles.
Begin by standing with your feet hip-width apart.
Place your left arm across your chest and exhale as you gently pull your elbow. Inhale and then switch sides.
Seated Figure 4 Stretch
This stretch is a hip opener and great for sciatica relief. In pregnant women, sciatica typically occurs when your sciatic nerve becomes irritated or pinched as a result of the hormone relaxin loosening ligaments as your body grows and stretches. Sciatica is a radiating pain that can be felt anywhere from your low back, hips, and tailbone down to your legs.
While sitting in a chair with the soles of your feet on the floor and your legs hip-width apart, lift your left foot to rest over your right knee at the ankle.
Sit up straight and inhale, and then lean forward gently, being mindful of your belly, as you exhale. Hold for a few seconds.
Switch sides, putting your right foot over your left knee and repeating the stretch.
This standing stretch is a modified lunge that can be felt from your ankles and hamstrings to your glutes, and can be deepened to your low back as well.
Begin by facing a wall with your palms on it at shoulder height. You are only using the wall for support, so keep a slight bend in your elbows.
Place the toes of your left foot against the wall with your heel on the floor.
Lean forward into your left foot while your right foot stays planted on the floor. Breathe here for a few seconds before you switch sides.
If you want a deeper stretch you can slowly lean forward more, take a step back with your planted foot, or both. Hinging at the waist a bit can help relieve lower back pain and sciatica, along with your leg tension.
Pregnancy is a busy and exciting time. With so much to prepare for, it can become harder to find calm, peaceful moments. Yoga is a great way to intentionally create calm within your day. One of the most common and centering poses is child’s pose.
Begin by finding a comfortable place to stretch your body out. It can be a yoga mat, a bed, or a blanket on the floor. Come to your hands and knees, or a seated position on your shins, with your knees at least hip-width apart.
With both palms flat on your mat, begin to lower your glutes toward your heels, keeping your arms straight and your hands grounded. Make sure to spread your knees enough to make room for your belly! Lower down as much as your growing baby will comfortably allow, and breathe into the stretch. You may feel it in your inner thighs, hips, low back, upper back, shoulders, and arms.
Inch your fingertips as far out as they can go to lengthen your spine and stretch your arms. Your forehead can rest on the mat, a pillow, a yoga block, or a bolster. Hold this position for as long as it feels comfortable.
Slowly raise your head and spine back to an upright position.
This is a great full body stretch that can be done alone or as a part of a prenatal yoga routine. The incorporation of deep breathing makes this gentle stretch relaxing for both your body and mind.
Tips to Start Stretching During Pregnancy
Stretching is safe during all trimesters of pregnancy and has not been shown to cause miscarriage. However, there are some safety tips to follow so your stretches are risk-free for you and your growing baby.
To start stretching during pregnancy, begin by developing a routine. Start small with some easy pregnancy stretches, and add in more as you like. If you are already exercising and are looking for ways to modify your exercise during pregnancy, we also have a great article on pregnancy workouts!
Remember that the most important part of beginning any new physical activity during pregnancy is to discuss it with your doctor beforehand. If you have lingering pain or something that concerns you, we encourage you to seek the medical advice of your healthcare provider. They may recommend a physical therapist or chiropractor to help you relieve more intense and lingering muscle tension.
If you are ready to begin stretching, here are some safety tips to get you started!
Getting your body moving before stretching is a good habit to get into. Going straight into stretching can strain muscles. Do some easy movement before stretching to get your circulation going—standing and walking across the room should be enough to begin to increase your blood flow. A warm-up does not refer to the temperature of your surroundings, however, as hot and humid places should be avoided when exercising. Avoid hot yoga and opt for a prenatal yoga class instead.
Focus on your breath
Being conscious of your inhales and exhales can help calm your mind and lengthen your muscles. Breath control helps you control your movements so you can avoid moving too fast. Avoid any exercises where you have to hold your breath.
The hormone relaxin increases during pregnancy and loosens your ligaments, but not in the same way as stretching. It allows ligaments to stretch during labor, but during exercise this increases your risk of overstretching and injury. Remember, you don’t need to take your stretch to the maximum to benefit from it.
Even a light stretch gets your body moving and your blood flowing, which is enough to ease some tension and benefit your overall health.
The shift in your center of gravity while pregnant is just one of the many changes your body goes through. The excess weight from your growing baby that shifts your center of gravity forward affects your balance. Be sure to take it slow so you don’t fall or injure yourself.
Quickly shifting between positions can injure your already stressed muscles. Holding postures for the length of your breath gives your muscles time to adjust and relax in the position.
Similar to rushing through positions, bouncing increases your risk of a pulled or injured muscle. If you need to lean into a stretch, do so slowly and controlled with a slow exhale.
Avoid lying on your back
As your baby begins to grow, the weight of your uterus can cut off blood flow to the main vein and artery of the body, restricting blood flow and oxygen to your baby. Avoid stretches where you need to lie on your back after the 20 week mark.
Keep a neutral spine
You’ll want to avoid stretches like backbends and crunches. Instead, keep your back straight and opt for gentle stretches of your abdominal muscles.
Stretching should not be painful
If anything hurts while stretching, stop. Stretching should bring relief, not pain.
Avoid high-intensity or high-pressure movements
Don’t do any movement that places a lot of pressure on your pelvic floor. Quick, standing twists are also not advisable. Anything with quick intervals of high activity should be avoided.
Avoid certain types of yoga
Prenatal yoga is gentle and mindful. Other types of yoga may not be best for pregnant women because of their breathing patterns and types of movements. Twisting, crunching, inversions, and lying on your belly, right side, or back are positions that may be used in other yoga classes that you will want to avoid. Ask the instructor before beginning for modifications, or go to classes that can accommodate your pregnancy.
Take care when bending
Stretches that involve bending over are fine during the first trimester and early in the second. Once your belly begins to grow, bending is not as carefree as it was. Avoid bending stretches in the third trimester to lessen the risk of dizziness or falling.
Now that you know the safety tips and best stretches to do during your pregnancy, it’s time to add them to your daily routine! We hope you are able to use these to relieve the muscle tension that comes along with your growing baby.
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