Pregnancy is a time of great change for your body. You are growing a new life inside you, and your body is working hard to ensure pregnancy goes smoothly. It’s important to take care of yourself during pregnancy, and one way to do that is by stretching regularly.
This blog post will discuss some of the best pregnancy stretches for keeping your body healthy and comfortable during pregnancy.
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What Are the Benefits of Pregnancy Stretches?
Pregnancy stretches can help relieve many of the discomforts pregnancy may cause, such as back pain, achy hips and legs, and fatigue. Stretching can also help improve your circulation and increase your energy levels.
Additionally, pregnancy stretches can help prepare your body for labor and delivery by helping to loosen and open up the pelvic area.
However, things like hip pain and upper and lower body pain are expected. After all, hip flexors and other factors can compromise the quality of your exercises through sciatic pain and muscle tension.
Despite the temporary and initial post-stretching pain associated with pregnancy stretches, they still alleviate common pregnancy-related discomforts.
For example, just keeping your spine straight and your leg straight during stretching routines can greatly improve your posture.
Pregnant women should always avoid exercises that involve excessive twisting as the pregnancy progresses. This way, it’s easy to prevent muscle tension.
Pregnancy-safe stretches should always be the first thing pregnant women must lean toward if they want better health outcomes.
There are pregnancy stretches that are safe and effective for pregnant women to do. Here are some of the best pregnancy stretches to help you stay comfortable during pregnancy:
1. Pelvic Tilts
Pelvic tilts are a great pregnancy stretch to help relieve back pain. To do a pelvic tilt:
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart, with your knees slightly bent.
- Slowly tilt your pelvis forward, arching your back.
- Tilt your pelvis backward, tucking your tailbone under. Repeat this pregnancy stretch 10 times.
2. Kegel Exercises
Kegel exercises are essential for all women to do, but they are especially important during pregnancy. Kegels help to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, which support the uterus and help with labor and delivery.
To do a Kegel exercise, simply squeeze the muscles you use to stop the urine flow and hold for a count of 10. Relax for 10 seconds and repeat. Do 10 repetitions 3 times a day.
3. Cat-Cow Pose
This pregnancy stretch is great for relieving back pain and preparing the body for labor. To do the cat-cow pose:
- Start on all fours with your hands below your shoulders, your knees below your hips.
- As you inhale, arch your back and look up toward the ceiling.
- Curve your back and tuck your chin to your chest as you exhale. Repeat this pregnancy stretch 10 times.
4. Pigeon Pose
Pigeon pose is another pregnancy stretch that can help relieve back pain. To do the pigeon pose:
- Start in a downward-facing dog with your hands under your shoulders and your feet hip-width apart.
- Bring your right knee forward to rest in front of your right wrist and extend your left leg back.
- Lower your hips toward the ground and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
5. Hip Opener Stretch
This pregnancy stretch helps to relieve achy hips and legs. To do the hip opener pregnancy stretch:
- Start in a standing position with your feet hip-width apart.
- Place your hands on your hips and take a deep breath.
- As you exhale, slowly bend at the hips and lower your torso toward the floor.
- Keep your knees soft as you sink down as far as you comfortably can.
- Once you’re in the stretch, take a few deep breaths and slowly return to the standing position.
6. Knee to Chest Stretch
The knee-to-chest pregnancy stretch can help relieve lower back pain and sciatic nerve pain. To do this pregnancy stretch:
- Lie on your back with both knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
- Place your hands on your thighs.
- Slowly bring one knee up to your chest, using your hands to support your leg.
- Hold the pregnancy stretch for 30 seconds, then slowly release your leg back to the starting position.
- Repeat the pregnancy stretch on the other side.
7. Seated Pregnancy Stretch
The seated pregnancy stretch can help relieve tension in your back and shoulders. To do this pregnancy stretch:
- Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor.
- Rest your hands on your thighs or knees.
- Slowly lean forward from your hips, keeping your back straight.
- Hold this stretch for 30 seconds.
Make sure you keep your back straight when doing this pregnancy stretch. If you have any pain, stop and talk to your doctor.
8. Kneeling Pregnancy Stretch
The kneeling pregnancy stretch can help relieve tension in your back and shoulders. To do this pregnancy stretch:
- Kneel on a soft surface with your back straight and your head up.
- Place your hands on your hips.
- Slowly lean backward, keeping your back straight.
- Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and then return to the starting position.
- Repeat 2–3 times.
9. Neck Stretch
The neck stretch is a pregnancy stretch that can help relieve tension in your neck and shoulders. This pregnancy exercise is also great for improving your posture. To do the neck stretch:
- Sit up tall in a chair with your shoulders relaxed.
- Gently tilt your head to one side, then the other.
- Repeat several times.
Important Things to Remember When Doing Stretches During Pregnancy
Even though pregnancy is a time when you want to be as careful as possible, it is still important to stay active and do some light stretching. Pregnancy stretches can help you stay limber, increase your range of motion, and ease pregnancy aches and pains.
But there are a few things you need to remember when doing pregnancy stretches. These things include:
1. Warming Up First
Pregnancy stretches should never be done cold. Warm up with light walking or jogging for a few minutes before starting your pregnancy stretches routine. This way, you’ll avoid pulling a muscle.
2. Avoiding Overstretching
It’s important not to overdo it when stretching during pregnancy. Avoid bouncing or jerking motions; always stretch to the point of mild discomfort, not pain. Make sure that you breathe deeply and slowly as you stretch.
3. Not Holding Your Breath
Remember to breathe as you do pregnancy stretches. Holding your breath can cause you to feel lightheaded and dizzy. Also, be mindful of how pregnancy has changed your center of gravity.
4. Listening to Your Body
If something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. And if you start to feel pain while stretching, stop immediately. Pregnancy is not the time to push your limits. Be sure you don’t overstretch, and be careful not to hold your breath while doing pregnancy stretches.
5. Choosing Stretches Carefully
There are some pregnancy stretches that are off-limits. Stay away from stretches that have you lying flat on your back for extended periods, as this can decrease blood flow to the uterus.
Also, avoid deep twists and anything that puts pressure on your belly. Your priority should be comfort and keeping your pregnancy safe, so don’t do a stretch that doesn’t feel good.
6. Wearing Comfortable Clothes
It’s very important to wear comfortable clothes during pregnancy. This will help you avoid any potential discomfort and also help you feel more comfortable while performing pregnancy stretches.
Loose-fitting clothing is always best, and you may even want to consider investing in some pregnancy-specific clothing items designed to be comfortable and stretchy.
What Kinds of Pregnancy Stretches Should Pregnant Women Avoid?
Even though pregnancy is a time of joy, it can also be a time of discomfort.
The extra weight and strain cause many discomforts that pregnancy places on the body. To help combat these pregnancy discomforts, pregnant women often turn to stretching exercises.
However, not all stretches are safe for pregnant women. In fact, some pregnancy stretches can actually do more harm than good. That’s why it’s important to know which pregnancy stretches to avoid.
1. Deep Belly Stretches
Stretching the abdominal muscles too much can cause them to separate, a condition called diastasis recti. Diastasis rectus is a condition that can cause lifelong problems, including back pain, incontinence, and hernias.
2. Hyperextended Leg Stretches
Stretching the hamstrings and calves too much can cause them to become hyperextended. Hyperextended muscles are more susceptible to injury.
3. High-Impact Cardio
High-impact cardio (e.g., running or jumping) can stress the joints and ligaments too much. This can lead to pain and discomfort, as well as injuries.
4. Forward Bends
Bending forward during pregnancy can compress the baby and strain the back. It can also cause lightheadedness and dizziness.
5. Inversion Stretches
Inversion stretches, such as headstands and shoulder stands, should be avoided during pregnancy. These exercises can cause the baby to become dislodged from the uterus and fall into the birth canal.
If you are tempted to do a pregnancy stretch that you’re not sure is safe, always consult with your healthcare provider first. They will be able to advise you on which stretches are safe for you to do and which ones you should avoid.
How Do Pregnancy Stretches Promote a Healthy Pregnancy?
A healthy pregnancy is very important for the mother and the baby. Pregnancy stretches help to keep the muscles active and healthy, promoting a healthy pregnancy. Pregnancy stretches help:
1. Relieve Back Pain
Back pain is a very common pregnancy symptom. Pregnancy stretches can help to relieve back pain by stretching the muscles in the back and pelvis.
2. Relieve Muscle Aches and Pains
Pregnancy stretches can also help relieve muscle aches and pains. This is especially important as pregnancy progresses and the baby grows, putting more pressure on the mother’s muscles and joints.
3. Promote Circulation
Pregnancy stretches can also help to promote circulation. This is important because pregnancy can cause the mother’s blood vessels to constrict, which can lead to reduced circulation.
4. Reduce Swelling
Swelling is a common pregnancy symptom, especially in the feet and ankles. Pregnancy stretches can help to reduce swelling by promoting circulation and improving lymphatic drainage.
When Should You Call A Doctor?
Even though pregnancy stretches can help relieve some pregnancy discomforts, certain pregnancy pains and symptoms warrant a call to your doctor.
Be sure to contact your healthcare provider if you experience any of the following:
- Sharp or persistent pain in your abdomen, pelvis, or lower back
- Persistent headache
- Dizziness or fainting
- Visual changes or problems
- Excessive swelling in your hands, feet, or face
- Shortness of breath
- Sudden weight gain or loss
- Abnormal bleeding
- Fever higher than 100 degrees Fahrenheit
If you experience any severe pregnancy pains or discomforts that persist despite stretching, be sure to call your doctor immediately. This way, you can rule out any potential pregnancy complications and get the necessary relief.
Pregnancy stretches have a lot of benefits, but it’s important to do them correctly and be gentle with yourself.
Remember to warm up first, and always listen to your body. If something hurts, don’t do it.
Pregnancy stretches can help you stay healthy and comfortable during pregnancy, but they’re not a cure-all.
Be sure to talk to your doctor about your concerns and always follow their advice. This way, you can be sure you’re doing what’s best for you and your baby.
All Things Childcare strives to provide research-based information. While the contents of this article have been fact-checked, we encourage our readers to seek actual medical advice from health professionals.