An active lifestyle during pregnancy is not new knowledge among expecting mothers, and a large part of prenatal exercise is stretching. We’re not talking about classroom stretching exercises like touching your toes without bending your knees, because as your belly grows, you may find it hard to actually see your toes. The stretching during pregnancy is more focused on areas that will be doing all the work during labor, delivery, and postpartum recovery.
Why stretch at home? The biggest benefit of stretching is flexibility. Gentle and refined stretching, like in yoga, can help a mother release tension from sore muscles on her back, abdomen, legs and arms. Stretching also provides a great warmup activity for any exercise to prevent injury, or a way to wake up those limbs after getting out of bed. Mothers-to-be who stretch become more in tuned with their bodies, and are able to read messages more clearly, a skill necessary for the baby’s well-being, observing for labor or danger signs, and even getting to know the healing process. Because the muscles of the body are gradually but consistently stretched, they become less susceptible to pain and injury, easing the mother of the typical discomforts associated with pregnancy.
Yoga and Pregnancy: Prenatal yoga is an all-in-one wellness activity. It is deeply relaxing, emotionally soothing, and allows for pregnant-friendly poses and stretches that focus on the body parts you will use for labor and giving birth. Prenatal yoga isn’t focused so much on complex positions, but rather on soothing fun poses that aren’t painful for the expecting mother. Supine positions should be avoided after the first trimester, as well as positions which require you to lie on your front side.
Talk to your doctor for recommendations for a yoga class near you, but make sure you’re physically healthy to attend one. Inform the instructor that you are expecting. Make sure the facility is equipped with first aid kits and injury management tools.
Pilates, anyone? Like yoga, pilates is centered on helping you strengthen your core and build your flexibility and strength, particularly in your abdomen, pelvic floor and back. It’s not only a pre-baby exercise, but it also has also been proven to be an effective exercise to help new mothers fit into their pre-pregnancy jeans. Pilates is generally adaptable; that means your instructor can modify the routines as your tummy grows and your capability changes.
Once your doctor has okayed you for Pilates, find one that specializes in prenatal Pilates. If you are just starting, don’t try to do Pilates from an instructional video as you may end up hurting yourself.
Stretch Safety Fundamentals: While stretching is generally a safe activity for expectant moms, you should always remember to talk to your doctor first before attempting any physical exercise that involves stretching. The great thing about stretching is that it does not require tiresome trips to the fitness center, or special gym clothes and equipment. It can be done right at the comfort of your home or office, whenever you feel like giving your stiff muscles a break.
The easiest parts of your body to stretch are your arms and legs. It’s best to do this after some cardio like jogging or brisk walking. For instance, if you jog regularly, stretch your calves, hamstrings, hips and your quadriceps.
When stretching, try your best to hold your position in place for at least 15 to 30 seconds. Do not exhaust your muscle’s limits, and prioritize your need for support or balance. As you stretch, make sure you breathe accordingly. If you experience any pain, difficulty breathing, nausea or light-headedness, call your doctor right away.
Skinny Mom Fact: As a general rule, the best time to stretch is after a brief warmup. Warming up before stretching allows an increase of blood flow and raises the temperature in your muscles, both of which are vital for muscle elasticity. Stretching “cold” muscles may cause tearing or a sprain. You should also stretch after cooling down after a workout.