Pregnancy takes a toll on your body, no doubt. Sciatica and back pain are extremely common at this time. Staying limber helps alleviate the pain and lowers risks for injury. One of the best and easiest ways to stay limber is by stretching. And, as a bonus, stretching your muscles, tendons and ligaments provides relief from many of the more common discomforts of pregnancy, such as:
- Improves circulation
- Calms the mind
- Gets rid of fatigue
- Prevents depression
- Improves digestion
- Lessens pelvic and leg cramps
- Helps ease depression and anxiety
There are certain things you need to keep in mind when doing your stretches while pregnant. The hormone relaxin, always present in your body and produced in your ovaries, increases during pregnancy as the placenta produces additional relaxin. Relaxing your body, like the name implies, as your due date approaches is one of the tasks of this chilled-out hormone.
Why be Mindful of Relaxin?
Specifically, relaxin serves to relax your hips and pelvis and soften the cervix as labor approaches. One of the additional benefits of this hormone is that your joints and ligaments are well lubricated and loose. You may feel like you can stretch, bend and reach further than before but your enthusiasm may end up causing you injury.
Another rule for stretching during pregnancy; listen to your body! Don’t push yourself, don’t crowd your belly, no closed twists or tight turns and if you feel uncomfortable, dizzy, nauseous or any pain stop immediately. And always check with your doctor before beginning any fitness routine, including stretching.
Pregnant people especially need to stretch both before and after any regular workout. If your workout involves stretching, like yoga and pilates, make sure you’re following the prenatal version. Avoid bouncing and breathe through your stretch. Know how to stretch the right way and you’ll feel amazing. But stretch the wrong way and you could end up sidelined for the duration of your pregnancy. Not pregnant yet? These stretches also help when you’re going through fertility treatment. Here are stretches we recommend for pregnant mothers:
- Seated Piriformis Stretch
Sciatica is a painful and very common condition during pregnancy. The piriformis muscle is deep in the buttocks and as it tightens it causes inflammation in the sciatic nerve. This stretch helps relieve/prevent sciatic pain.
- Sit in a chair with your feet on the floor. Take your right ankle and rest it on your left knee. Now, as much as you are able depending on where you are in your pregnancy, lean forward with your back straight. Feel the pull in your buttocks? Hold the pose for several seconds. Repeat with left ankle on right knee.
- Pigeon Pose
- With hands on the floor, sit back and slide your right knee up between your hands. Now slide your left leg out behind you with your foot keeping in contact with the floor. Now lean forward on your right knee. If you are able, lean into the stretch as low as you can go. Repeat with opposite legs.
- Hip Flexor
- Kneel on the floor on your hands and knees. Bring your right foot out in front of you so that hip and knee are at a 90° angle. Bring your torso up from your hips and, with hand on lower back, lean back. When you feel a stretch (Don’t push it!) hold the pose for 30 seconds. Repeat with opposite foot in front.
- Foam Rolling for Glute and Hamstring
As your pregnancy progresses the combination of all that relaxin and your growing baby weight, it’s easy to over stretch your hamstring and glute muscles. Foam rollers are terrific for working out those kinks and sore muscles.
- Place roller on the floor and lower yourself into a sitting position on the roller. Support yourself with hands behind you. Lean to one side. Slowly move back and forth over the roller for 30-60 seconds at each tender spot. Repeat on other side.
- Chair Stretch
As your baby’s “birth” day approaches, the muscles in your lower back, buttocks and the backs of your legs seem sore continually. The extra weight and trying to maintain your balance throw off your gait (the pregnant “saddle”) and your muscles react. The chair stretch helps relieve some of the tension you feel in those areas.
- Stand facing the chair. Plant your feet slightly wider than hip distance apart. Lean forward using the back of the chair for support. Keep your arms straight, but don’t lock your elbows. Keep your back flat and push your hips away from the chair. You’ll feel this stretch in your lower back as your muscles loosen a bit. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds.
Tips to Get the Most From Stretching During Pregnancy
Although stretching sounds simple enough, as your pregnancy progresses you need to keep a few things in mind, so you get the most benefit. Here are some tips:
- Relax as you stretch. Tension goes against stretching and you won’t get any benefit. Be mindful and take deep, relaxing breaths.
- Rest between stretches.
- Practice as many reps as you like as long as you’re comfortable.
- If you feel any pain anywhere, stop what you’re doing and rest.
Physical fitness is an important part of a healthy pregnancy, but remember, only practice stretching with your doctor’s approval. For more on physical activity during pregnancy contact the caring team at LA IVF.