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Stretching during pregnancy can be beneficial for both mother and baby. As pregnancy progresses, posture changes to redistribute the weight of your growing baby which can cause some discomfort. Stretching can help alleviate pain, improve range of motion, and decrease inflammation. 

However, it’s important to consult with your healthcare provider before starting any new exercise or stretching routine during pregnancy, as there may be certain conditions or medical concerns that need to be taken into account.

During pregnancy, hormones like relaxin and estrogen are released which causes your ligaments to become more flexible which can increase the risk of joint instability or injury. So it’s very important to avoid any movements that involve bouncing or jerking or cause pain as you stretch. You will also want to avoid stretches that require lying on your back after the first trimester. It’s also important to listen to your body and avoid overstretching or pushing yourself too hard.

Check out these articles:
Pregnancy Sleeping Positions
Kinesiotape for Low Back Pain in Pregnancy

Disclaimer

Although I am a physical therapist by profession, I am not your physical therapist.  This information is for educational purposes only, it does not constitute medical advice and does not establish any kind of therapist-patient relationship with me. I am not liable or responsible for any damages resulting from or related to your use of this information. Always consult with your healthcare provider prior to beginning any exercise regime during pregnancy.

Tips for Stretching During Pregnancy

  • Consult your healthcare provider: Before starting any exercise or stretching routine during pregnancy, it’s important to consult with your healthcare provider to ensure it’s safe for you and your baby.
  • Warm-up: Begin with a gentle warm-up to increase blood flow to your muscles. This could include walking or gentle movements to prepare your body for stretching.
  • Focus on gentle stretches: Avoid overstretching or pushing yourself too hard, especially as your body changes during pregnancy. Opt for gentle stretches that focus on relieving tension in areas such as the back, hips, and legs.
  • Listen to your body: Pay attention to how your body feels during stretching. If you experience any discomfort, stop immediately. Never stretch to the point of pain.
  • Avoid lying flat on your back: As your pregnancy progresses, lying flat on your back can put pressure on a major vein called the vena cava, which can affect blood flow to your heart and uterus. Instead, perform stretches while lying on your side or in a supported reclined position.
  • Use props for support: Consider using props such as pillows, yoga blocks, or chairs to support your body during stretching exercises, especially if you’re feeling less stable or balanced as your pregnancy advances.
  • Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water before, during, and after stretching to stay hydrated, especially since pregnancy can increase your body’s need for fluids.
  • Avoid bouncing: Bouncing during stretches can strain your muscles and increase the risk of injury. Instead, hold each stretch for 15-30 seconds and focus on breathing deeply and evenly.
  • Modify as needed: As your pregnancy progresses, you may need to modify your stretching routine to accommodate your changing body. Listen to your body’s cues and make adjustments as necessary.
  • Pelvic floor exercises: Incorporate pelvic floor exercises, such as Kegels, into your stretching routine to help strengthen the muscles that support your bladder, uterus, and bowels.
  • Postpartum considerations: After giving birth, gradually ease back into stretching exercises, taking into account any changes or challenges your body may have experienced during pregnancy and childbirth.

This research article that looked at stretching versus walking during pregnancy reports “The results of the study showed that stretching exercise versus walking reduces systolic and diastolic blood pressure in the second trimester of pregnancy and controls it in the third trimester of pregnancy. In contrast, walking has no effect on blood pressure during pregnancy.”

Great Stretches During Pregnancy

1. Cat-Cow Stretch

  • Position: On your hands and knees.
  • Movement: Inhale and arch your back, lifting your head and tailbone (cow position). Exhale and round your back, tucking your chin and tailbone (cat position).
  • Benefits: Helps relieve tension in the spine and improve flexibility.

2. Pelvic Tilts

  • Position: On your hands and knees or standing against a wall.
  • Movement: Tighten your abdominal muscles and tuck your pelvis under, flattening your back. Release and return to the starting position.
  • Benefits: Strengthens the lower back and abdominal muscles.

3. Seated Hamstring Stretch

  • Position: Sit with one leg bent and the other extended in front of you.
  • Movement: Gently reach forward towards your extended foot, keeping your back straight.
  • Benefits: Stretches the hamstrings.

4. Butterfly Stretch

  • Position: Sit with the soles of your feet together and knees bent out to the sides.
  • Movement: Hold your feet and gently press your knees towards the floor.
  • Benefits: Opens the hips and stretches the inner thighs.

5. Hip Flexor Stretch

  • Position: Kneel on one knee with the other foot in front, forming a 90-degree angle with both knees.
  • Movement: Shift your weight forward slightly, feeling a stretch in the front of the hip of the leg that’s kneeling.
  • Benefits: Stretches the hip flexors and can relieve lower back tension.
  • Notes: You can also perform this stretch on a step to avoid kneeling. Place one foot on the second step, gently lean forward to feel a stretch in the front of the hip of the leg on the ground.

6. Side Stretch

  • Position: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Movement: Raise one arm overhead and gently lean to the opposite side, feeling the stretch along your side.
  • Benefits: Stretches the sides of your torso and can help alleviate back pain.
  • Notes: You can also perform this stretch in sitting. As you lean sideways to stretch, keep your bottom on the ground.

7. Chest Opener

  • Position: Stand or sit with your back straight.
  • Movement: Clasp your hands behind your back and gently lift your arms, opening your chest.
  • Benefits: Stretches the chest and shoulders, improving posture.

8. Child’s Pose

  • Position: On your hands and knees, sit back onto your heels with your arms extended forward.
  • Movement: Lower your chest towards the floor, relaxing your forehead on the ground.
  • Benefits: Stretches the back, hips, and thighs, and promotes relaxation.
  • Note: Keep your knees apart for room for your growing belly. You can also use a swiss ball for your hands and roll the ball in and out for a stretch.

9. Seated Piriformis Stretch

  • Position: Sit in a chair and cross one leg over the other.
  • Movement: Gently bend forward at your hips to feel a stretch in your glutes.
  • Benefits: Stretches the muscles in your hips and can help with lower back pain.
  • Note: This is great in earlier pregnancy, many women will not be able to do this stretch in the third trimester, however it is safe to do so if you can

10. Upper Thoracic Stretch

  • Position: Sit in a chair with your chin to your chest and grasp both hands in front of you.
  • Movement: Gently pull your arms away from you at an angle towards the floor to feel a stretch across your upper back and neck.
  • Benefits: Stretches the muscles between your shoulder blades.
  • Note: This is great stretch to do if you frequently sit at a desk.

Prenatal Yoga

  • Activity: Join a prenatal yoga class or follow online prenatal yoga routines.
  • Benefits: Combines various stretches and breathing exercises specifically designed for pregnancy, promoting overall flexibility and relaxation.