Stretching During Pregnancy – Benefits and Exercises
Pregnancy is a delicate time in a woman’s life but following a healthy lifestyle during the nine months of pregnancy can make your life a little easier. Other than eating healthy foods, doing pregnancy-safe exercises can help you stay fit. Stretching is one such exercise (or the much-needed warm-up before exercise) that can be very helpful for you when pregnant. If you still have doubts, read on to know if you can perform stretching exercises during pregnancy!
Can You Do Stretching Exercises During Pregnancy?
A pregnant woman’s body undergoes many changes. While pregnant, you may feel fatigued and exercise will be the last thing on your mind. But stretching exercises will only do go to you and your baby, provided you do them with utmost caution and after checking with your doctor. Stretching exercises can keep you physically fit as well as relieve stress and tension. But before you start with any exercise, we suggest that you check with your doctor!
What Are the Benefits of Stretching During Pregnancy?
Stretching during pregnancy offers a host of benefits to a mother and the baby. Pregnancy is fraught with pain in many parts of the body, and stretching can help new mothers cope with these changes in the body.
A woman’s posture changes as the size of her belly increases. Combine that with the weight of the foetus, and the result is that the woman always experiences some pain. Back pain is extremely common in pregnant women, mainly because of the growth of the foetus accompanied by the hormonal changes taking place in her body.
Stretching the back during pregnancy can help in resolving the stiff feeling in the back, and even improve the range of motion of the mother. The heartbeat of the mother increases when she exercises which is why the foetus in the womb gets more blood. This results in a healthy baby in the womb. Also, stretching exercises can help mothers keep their weight in check, and not gain too much weight during their pregnancy. Pregnancy stretches in the third trimester are also useful since they loosen up the joints and make the mother slightly more comfortable during childbirth.
Can Stretching Hurt the Baby?
Stretching exercises may hurt the baby during pregnancy if not done correctly. You should not strain yourself too much as this can impair the development of the foetus. A woman should always stay hydrated so that there’s no issue while exercising. Avoid lying down on the stomach while doing any stretches. Do not perform Shavasana after exercising after the first trimester. The blood vessels carrying nutrients to the uterus can get squeezed, resulting in the baby not getting enough blood to grow.
Tips for Pregnant Women to Perform Stretching Exercises Safely
There are some tips that women can follow while exercising so that they do not bring any harm to the baby growing in their belly. Some of these are:
- Move smoothly. This means that you should avoid any uncomfortable or quick movements, and opt to move at a slow pace. Slow movements reduce the risk of stressing out your ligaments and joints during pregnancy.
- Every stretch you do should be held for at least 10 to 30 seconds. This is because the muscles of pregnant women need some time to relax adequately.
- Understand your body and do not force a stretch with quick movements.
- Control your breath, as it can also help you limit the speed of your movements. Deepen your stretch gently as you exhale.
- If you feel any pain while stretching, you should stop stretching immediately, and not go through with it.
- Inhale as you return to starting position while stretching.
- Do not lie on your back, especially after stretching. This can result in the cutting off of blood flow to the uterus, and cause lightheadedness and low blood pressure.
Pregnancy Stretches That You Should Try
Here are some stretching exercises which could prove to be helpful for pregnant women. However, if you wish to try these exercises, do check with your doctor first.
1. Shoulder Stretches
- Sit on a comfortable chair, and open your chest while simultaneously rotating your shoulders backwards and down. Make the circle as large as possible. Repeat for 4 or 5 times.
2. Chest Stretches
- Stand and raise your arms on either side.
- Slowly, step forward with one foot until you feel light in the chest area (and do not move too much.).
- Hold for thirty seconds, and switch feet in a smooth motion.
- Repeat one or two times per side, multiple times in a day.
- Stand with your back pressed against the wall with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Then bend forward as you exhale, in slow, smooth action. Go as far down as per your comfort.
- Let your hands hang in front of you, and always keep your weight on your feet.
- Inhale again before rolling back up, and press your back against the wall in a step-by-step fashion until you are upright again.
- Repeat two times. If your belly becomes too big, you can do the same seated on a chair.
4. Neck Stretches
- While sitting or standing, bring your head forward and tipped to one side, keeping your eyes open.
- Reach up behind your head with the hand on the same side as your head is tipped, and give your head a gentle pull.
- If you do this while turning your head, you will be able to isolate the muscles on your neck which need stretching.
5. Waist Twist
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, and knees slightly bent.
- Bring both your arms to the left side at shoulder height, while you look over your right shoulder. Hold the stretch for a time.
- Then, move back slowly and reverse the motion.
- Repeat the actions twice or thrice each time, multiple times a day.
6. Calf Stretches
- Stand 2 feet from a wall, and extend your arms in front of you at shoulder height.
- Tilt forward slightly, so that your palms touch the wall while your heels remain on the ground. Hold the stretch for ten seconds.
- Then, slowly push away from the wall.
- Repeat twice. Make sure you don’t wear slippery shoes or socks while performing this stretch.
7. Hamstring Stretch
- Put one foot up on a chair.
- Then, lean forward slowly holding the chair so that you feel a pull on the back of your thighs.
- If the chair is too uncomfortable, try a lower step or something with lesser height.
Stretches, particularly pregnancy hip stretches are instrumental in helping a woman maintain her health during this tumultuous time. Exercise can be good for both the mother and the baby if done correctly. So remember to check with a doctor before starting a stretching regime.