Stretching during pregnancy can provide some benefits with relaxation but it is important to know that your muscles will become more supple due to hormone changes. Below I have listed 10 of the best pregnancy stretches you can do at home.
There are certain stretches you can do during a prenatal workout but also I want you to be aware of stretches you need to avoid as your belly grows.
You should always conduct a thorough warm-up with light activity and movement and you should always stretch following exercise. To ensure you are getting the most benefit from your post-exercise stretching session, follow the tips below.
Stretching During Pregnancy
When you are pregnant, including pregnancy safe stretching can offer many benefits. It contributes to helping you to be relaxed and fit as well as physically preparing you for labor. Also, stretching may help ease some of the aches and pains you might be experiencing.
The Benefits Of Stretching During Pregnancy
There are many specific poses that can be used to help alleviate common pregnancy discomforts such as back pain and hip pain.
Did you know that pregnant people who included pregnancy stretches into their weekly workouts have also been shown to experience less pain during labor, giving them a higher chance at a natural delivery.
Benefits for Stretching While Pregnant
1. Improve circulation
2. Prevent depression
3. Rid fatigue
4. Quiet the mind
5. Reduce insomnia
6. Improve digestion
7. Reduce pelvic and leg cramps
8. Ease ligament pain
9. Ease and prevent muscle tension
10. Sciatica back pain
Which Stretches Should I Avoid when Pregnant?
During your second and third trimester I want you to avoid the following:
1. Any stretches that require you to lay on your stomach.
2. Stretches that place too much strain on your belly. As your uterus grows, your abdominal muscles will begin to separate and weaken.
4. Don't twist! Avoid all poses that involve excessive twisting as they put too much stress on your growing belly.
What is Relaxin?
Relaxin is a hormone that's present in the body and during pregnancy, levels of relaxin increase. This hormone helps the body relax the cervix and ligaments during delivery.
Relaxin lubricates and loosens your joints and ligaments of the pelvis, which can allow you to overstretch in activities like yoga. The problem with this when you are pregnant is that if you over-stretch you can cause injury.
The level that you stretch is slightly less than what you did before you were pregnant. Now is not the time to push too hard.
Stretching Tips for Pregnant Individuals
Make it a habit to stretch after each workout or prenatal class as the more you include stretching in your daily workouts the greater flexibility and range of movement you will experience.
2. Hold Each Stretch for 30 seconds
Your goal with each stretch is to hold the stretch for a minimum of 30 seconds as this will ensure you are getting maximum stretching benefits.
3. Learn to Relax when Stretching
You will achieve maximum flexibility benefits when you are relaxed. And there is no physical or mental tension to inhibit your range of movement and prevent your muscles from stretching as effectively.
4. Avoid Bouncing when Stretching
You should always avoid bouncing during stretching as it could overstretch the muscle and result in injury. Take your time with each stretch and gradually move your body or the limb being stretched into the stretch position. Hold the stretch as soon as you feel slight tension in the muscle as this will be the limit of the muscle's flexibility.
5. Rest and Repeat for Maximum Gain
One repetition is beneficial, but performing several stretches for each muscle will help achieve maximum gain. This will take extra time but well worth it if you can make the time.
6. Relax your breathing when Stretching
As you stretch, maintain your breathing as this will contribute to allowing you to stretch further. If you hold your breath, your body will tend to tighten and will tense up thus making stretching much harder.
7. No Pain - No Gain - Should NOT be Your Motto
If you experience pain when stretching then you are pushing too hard or are using incorrect technique. When you stretch, you should experience a mild feeling of tension within the stretched muscle. If you push too hard and experience pain when stretching this will likely indicate injury or a muscle that has been overstretched.
8. Stretching at the Gym
If you are working out at the gym, then you will often find a dedicated area with stretching mats. This area is a good place to warm down. Just in today's era of maintaining personal distance please make sure you are away from the person next to you.
Also, a lot of gyms display stretches on posters. Not all of these are suitable when pregnant so don't try a new stretch unless you know it is recommended for pregnant women.
Questions About Stretching While Pregnant
Can stretching while pregnant hurt the baby?
As I consistently mention, you should try and avoid abdominal stretches as they are not necessary or safe during pregnancy. You do not need to stretch your abdominal muscles as your growing baby is doing that for you.
Can I stretch my back while pregnant?
It is not recommended that you stretch or exercise on your back after 16 weeks. Back pain during pregnancy is a horrible thing to experience and there are some stretches that may be of benefit to you. Exercises for the back, such as the low back stretch, can help ease backaches. The stretches I have listed above will also help you safely stretch your lower back. Please consult with your Physical Therapist first before doing any stretches on your back.
Can twisting hurt my baby?
There is the potential for certain twisting stretches or movements to strain your abdominal muscles. Your ab muscles are already compromised as the belly stretches to accommodate the growing uterus. These kinds of twists also limit the baby's space and can restrict blood flow to the uterus.
Gentle, open twists that do not compress the belly, or work too deeply into the lower spine are safe. The key is to include stretches that focus on mobilizing the upper part of your spine. These stretches when performed correctly are beneficial during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy.
So, during pregnancy it's safe to practice twisting postures without compression.
Can you massage lower back during pregnancy?
Prenatal massages are extremely beneficial and recommended for relaxation, pain and discomfort. Before scheduling any prenatal massage I want you to speak to your doctor. For you, massage therapy for lower back, pelvic, or sciatic nerve pain in pregnancy may or may not be recommended based on your personal situation. If you are approved to get a massage, please make sure you ONLY go to a therapist who specializes in prenatal massage. ie: ME!
Stretching can provide you with some great benefits when pregnant. They can help you prepare for labor. But the big concern is to NOT over-do it and to know which stretches you must avoid.
Pregnancy Safe Stretches
Here are some great stretches that will also help you if you experience sciatic pain during pregnancy which can be painful. Stretching can help relieve your sciatic pain by decreasing muscle tension and increasing movement in the hips, lower back, and legs.
What are some good stretches to do while pregnant?
1. Seated piriformis stretch
The piriformis muscle is deep in the buttocks and when is it tight, it can irritate the sciatic nerve. This stretch can help decrease sciatic pain.
Sit on a chair with feet flat on the ground. If your right side is affected, put your right ankle on your right knee. Keep your back straight. Lean forward until you feel a stretch through your buttocks. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat again.
Muscles worked: spine, piriformis, glutes
2. Pigeon Pose Stretch
Get on your hands and knees on the floor. Slide your right knee forward so it's between your hands. Slide your left leg back, keeping your foot on the floor. Place the rolled towel under your right hip. Lean forward over your right leg. Slowly lower yourself toward the ground, putting a pillow under your head and arms for support. Hold for 1 minute.
Muscles worked: groin, hip, psoas
3. Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
Kneel on the floor on your hands and knees. Step one foot in front of you. Your hip and knee are at a 90-degree angle. Shift your weight forward until you feel a stretch in the front of your back hip and leg. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on other side.
Muscles worked: psoas, quadriceps
4. Glute and Hamstring Foam Rolling
Put your foam roller on the ground. Sit on the foam roller. You can support yourself with your hands behind you. Cross one foot over the other knee into a 'figure 4' position. Slowly move your body back and forth over the foam roller until you find a tender spot.
Continue this movement over the sore area for 30 to 60 seconds. Slowly move over the foam roller until you find another tender area. As in step 5, continue over the area for 30 to 60 seconds. Repeat on other side.
Muscles worked: hamstring, glutes, piriformis, calf muscles
5. Table or Chair stretch
This stretch will help the muscles of the back, buttocks, and the back of the legs.
Stand facing a table with feet slightly wider than your hips. Lean forward with your hands on the table. Keep your arms straight and your back flat. Pull your hips away from the table until you feel a stretch in the lower back. Hold this position for at least 30 seconds.
Muscles worked: low back, glutes, hamstring