In this post we’re going to focus on the benefits of stretching during pregnancy. We’ll cover how to prevent injury while stretching and I’ll show you some easy flexibility work you can enjoy on your own.
As we’ve mentioned in previous posts on pregnancy, staying active during pregnancy is very important. As much as working on strength and focusing on specific muscles is an essential part of fitness during pregnancy, flexibility is equally as important. As your body starts to change, you’ll start noticing tightness in different places with a feeling of less room to move in your own skin. Tension starts setting in as your body compensates for the different weight distribution taking place as your centre of gravity shifts. For this reason, combining flexibility work with your strengthening work is the best way to balance your workout during pregnancy.
Stretching helps for flexibility, loosening up tight muscles and is great for relaxation, as long as it’s done properly – gently is the key! When I’m explaining stretches to my clients, I tell them to indulge in the movement – Go to where it feels delicious!
It is important to note that over-stretching during pregnancy is a real possibility due to the increased level of the hormone, Relaxin, in your system. This hormone allows your ligaments the flexibility they need to move as your uterus grows and your pelvis starts widening in preparation for labour. With this hormone flowing in excess through your body, you may feel it is slightly easier to go into certain stretches than it has been for you in the past and you might push yourself to a point where you risk injury. As such, it’s important to avoid overdoing it. Your goal is not to increase flexibility but to maintain it. Only go to a point where it feels good. As soon as the stretches start feeling more painful than enjoyable, you have gone too far. Gentle stretches of about 30 seconds are all you need to get the full benefits.
As pelvic stability is essential for good posture and preventing lower back and pelvic pain, intense adductor stretches may place undue stress on the pelvic bone area. Be sure to pay attention to strengthening and stretching this area evenly and gently. Make sure your adductor stretches follow a series of gentle exercises and don’t over-do the stretches as discussed above. You can read our post about lower body exercises for some ideas on how to strengthen these muscles before going into the stretches.
The most important areas to focus your flexibility on are:
- Your back – upper, middle and lower
- Your chest (pectorals) – stretches that open the chest are really important as these muscles tend to get quite tight
- Your rib cage – stretches that create space over the rib cage feel amazing
- Your hip flexors – these tend to get tight due to postural changes
Dea has been kind enough to demonstrate some of my favourite stretches focusing on parts of the pregnant body that tend to get tight and benefit the most from a good stretch.
Hip Flexor Stretch:
Using the ball for this stretch makes it a lot more comfortable. Hold the position for 30 seconds on each side.
This stretch is wonderful for the back and hamstrings. Sitting tall to prepare, exhale and roll your spine forward allowing your vertebrae to open and your hamstrings to gently release. Hold as you inhale, roll back up through the spine as you exhale. Repeat 8 times.
This is the perfect stretch to open the chest and ribcage. If you circle your arms out to the side together as well, you’ll get a fantastic stretch for the pectorals. Be careful not to arch the lower back as you reach your arm up towards the wall. Alternate arms and repeat 5 times with each arm. Add 5 arm circles each way and enjoy the feeling of opening these tight spots.
I hope you enjoy these stretches. Add them to your exercise program 3 times a week for a feeling of well-being and relaxation.