As a woman’s body changes to accommodate her pregnancy, tightness in the neck, chest, calves and lower back are common side-effects. To help relieve this discomfort, prenatal stretching can be recommended by your Ob/Gyn.
Soreness, mobility issues, and lack of flexibility can make pregnancy feel less than ideal. If this is a first pregnancy, these changes will come as a surprise as your lower back, feet, calves and pelvic region ache and overall body stiffness sets in. Stretching is noninvasive, can decrease swollen legs, lessen anxiety and even promote better sleep.
Exercising while pregnant can be a powerful tool for your well-being and can lead to an easier, shorter labor and a reduction of weight gain during pregnancy. However, if your Ob/Gyn has recommended you decrease the intensity of your exercising, stretching can be a low-intensity alternative that will help you keep your body moving. Regular movement can help reduce pain during labor and quicken your postnatal recovery.
Before starting any new physical activity, including stretching, check with your Ob/Gyn. Once given the thumbs up, there are a few tips on stretching safely during pregnancy:
- Make sure to warm up, as stretching cold muscles can cause injury. Walking briskly for a few minutes will warm up your muscles.
- Hold each stretch for 20 to 30 seconds
- Avoid bouncing in a stretch as that can result in a pulled muscle.
- As part of your body accommodating the pregnancy, it releases the hormone relaxin, which affects your ligaments and can make you more flexible than usual. Be careful not to overdo your stretching, as it can still result in pulled muscles.
- To stay safe during pregnancy, it is advisable to stay away from stretches that involve deep backbends or contortions (think bow pose in yoga). After the first trimester, try to avoid lying flat on your back for extended periods of time. If calf cramps become an issue, try flexing your feet rather than pointing your toes when you stretch. Always listen to your body. If a stretch doesn’t feel good, change course to one that does.
- Bending can be awkward with a second or third-trimester bump, but it is safe to bend at the waist as long as your doctor clears it and you avoid repetitive physical motion.
- To make your stretching more enjoyable, it is advised to:
- Enjoy appropriate rest periods
- Stay hydrated to avoid overheating
- Wear loose, comfy clothing
- Eat well and regularly
- If you encounter any discomfort, stop that stretch
- Avoid exercising in humid, hot conditions
- Work for a 20-minute period of time at a perceived exertion scale of 3 or 4 out of 10
Working with a prenatal fitness or yoga instructor can be beneficial as he or she can make sure your form is proper and can help set up a stretching game plan. A trainer can also advise on light aerobic activity, with modifications made along the way.
During the second trimester, low impact activity is the way to go, such as taking a brisk walk or pool-based aqua classes. During the third trimester, low impact activity can continue for short bursts of 15 to 20 minutes of walking or swimming.
Questions about exercise during pregnancy? Call us at (631) 587-2500 to make an appointment today.