I loved every second of being pregnant with my two… Especially having a built in bump as a table, to balance my food on!
I had two very different pregnancies… The first I didn’t train or stretch as the studio wasn’t open yet, but I developed a very sore and painful back. I remember being in tears as it was so sore.
My second pregnancy, I still trained and taught pole until the very end and I had no soreness or pain!
I did a lot of research to see if it was still safe for both training and stretching and here’s what I found…
When you’re pregnant the alignment changes of the spine, which can cause specific muscle groups to become too tight. These muscles should be stretched regularly to prevent many common discomforts of pregnancy such as back pain.
Inflexibility reduces joint range of motion and can lead to muscle tears and erosion of joint cartilage.
Stretching while pregnant is still encouraged but it is important stay within a safe range of motion as you maybe more prone to strains. It takes about five months for the increased level of relaxin to leave the body so even postpartum don’t push your joints beyond normal limits to prevent injury.
Muscle Groups that should be Stretched During Pregnancy
- Hip flexors
- Lower back
- Back of the neck
Benefits that Stretching Provides During Pregnancy
- Counterbalance the stresses that pregnancy places on the body.
- Relieves common pregnancy complaints such as back and shoulder pain.
- Reduces muscle tension.
- Helps you maintain length in muscles
- Helps reduce stress.
- Functional Muscular Imbalances
After pregnancy, the effects of altered alignment, a weakened abdominal wall, and Ligaments Laxity leave the body particularly prone to developing problems.
Postpartum Muscular Imbalance
- After pregnancy, heavier breasts and tight chest muscles increase the curve of the upper spine
- Your body is now out of alignment
- Then the opposing muscles of the upper back weaken
- Misalignment imbalance of the shoulders due to carrying your newborn can cause back, shoulder or neck pain
- The key is to stretch overly tight muscles groups to improve alignment
Stretching Benefits During Pregnancy
- Boost your emotional health
- Align and center the spine
- Become more mentally centered and calm.
- Increases your ability to cope effectively with emotional stress.
- Helps you prepare for childbirth and adding a new baby into the family
- Establishes the routine of setting aside time for self-renewal
Precautions About Stretching During Pregnancy
Pregnancy hormones soften and lengthen all of the body’s connective tissues including ligaments, enabling the pelvis to widen for the birth. During the last trimester of pregnancy, and for about six months after childbirth, your body’s ligaments are vulnerable to injury. You must practice flexibility exercises with care and sensitivity.
How to Protect Your Ligaments During Stretching
- Always stretch muscles, never Ligaments or joints
- If you feel any joint pain or discomfort, modify your position until the discomfort disappears.
- If discomfort continues, or if you have pain or limited range of motion in a joint the next day, avoid that stretch
- Avoid stretching the Sacroiliac joint, especially in positions where the hip is flexed and the thigh is externally rotated
How to Safely Stretch Muscles During Pregnancy
- Always stretch the the muscle, never the muscle insertion point (Tendons) or joint (Ligaments)
- Check you can only feel it in the muscle group you are stretching and not where it attaches.
- Perform all stretches in a slow and controlled manner, definitely no bouncing.
- Only go as far as your body is comfortable
- Breathe deeply and hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds
- Try to relax excess tension that might occur in other parts of the body
- Avoid positions that allow your body to give into the force of gravity.
- Select positions where your spine is supported
- Return gradually to your starting position slowly