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Pregnancy is one of the most challenging periods in the life of a woman. As soon as you find out that another delicate life depends on you, doubts start to swirl around in your head. Expecting parents start questioning everything around them, even the smallest, simplest things, and in many cases, their fears turn out to be true.
Stretching during pregnancy is one of those unimportant activities which suddenly move to the fore as soon as you find out that you are pregnant. Many people might come to you with different advice- some people recommend stretching during pregnancy, while the consensus of other people is that it is generally bad for the baby. In this article, we shall address the question as to whether stretching is useful or harmful for an expecting mother.
Can you do Stretching Exercises during Pregnancy?
The body of a pregnant woman undergoes many changes, in a short amount of time. It might seem overwhelming, and many mothers find themselves becoming weak and inactive. Stretching is the perfect exercise for mothers to do, and it does not hurt the baby in any way. It is one of the best things you can do when pregnant since it not only helps you become healthier physically but also relieves tension and stress. However, remember to check with your doctor before you get started on your stretching regime.
What are the Benefits of Stretching During Pregnancy?
Safe stretches during pregnancy come with a host of amazing benefits, both for the mother and the baby. Pregnancy is fraught with pain in many parts of the body, and stretching can help mothers cope with these changes in the body.
The posture of the woman changes as the size of her belly increases. Combine that with the weight of the foetus, and the result is that the woman is always under some pain. Back pain is extremely common in pregnant women, mainly because of the growth of the foetus accompanied by the hormonal changes taking place in her body. These are the areas that stretching works well for the benefit of the mother.
Stretching the back during pregnancy can help in resolving the stiff feeling in the back, and even improve the range of motion of the mother. The heartbeat of the mother increases when she exercises which is why the foetus in the womb gets more blood. This results in a healthy baby in the womb. Also, stretching exercises can help mothers keep their weight in check, and not gain too much weight during their pregnancy. Pregnancy stretches in the third trimester are also useful since they loosen up the joints and make the mother slightly more comfortable during childbirth.
Can Stretching Hurt the Baby?
As in every activity during pregnancy, stretches also have the potential to hurt the baby if they not done correctly. You should not strain yourself too much as this can impair the development of the foetus. Also, remember to stay well hydrated so that there are no issues while you exercise. When doing stomach stretches during pregnancy, you should not lie on your back, especially after the first trimester. The blood vessel carrying nutrients to the uterus can get squeezed, resulting in the baby not getting enough blood to grow.
Tips for Pregnant Women to Do Stretching Exercises Safely
There are some tips that women can follow while exercising so that they do not bring any harm to the baby growing in their belly. Some of these are:
- Move smoothly. This means that you should avoid any uncomfortable or quick movements, and opt to move at a slow pace. Slow movements reduce the risk of stressing out your ligaments and joints during pregnancy.
- Every stretch you do should be held for at least 10 to 30 seconds. This is because the muscles of pregnant women need some time to relax adequately.
- Understand your body and do not force a stretch with quick movements
- Control your breath, as it can also help you limit the speed of your movements. Deepen your stretch gently as you exhale.
- If you feel any pain while stretching, you should stop your stretch immediately, and not go through with it.
- Inhale as you return to your starting position while stretching.
- Do not lie on your back, especially after stretching. This can result in the cutting off of blood flow to the uterus, and cause lightheadedness and low blood pressure.
Pregnancy Stretches that You Should Try
Here are some stretching exercises which are great for pregnant women:
1. Shoulder Stretches
- Sit on a comfortable chair, and open your chest while simultaneously rotating your shoulders backwards and down. Make the circle as large as possible. Repeat for 4 or 5 times.
2. Chest Stretches
- Stand in a doorway, and keep both your arms on either side of the doorway at shoulder height.
- Slowly, step forward with one foot until you feel a pull in the chest area (do not move too much!)
- Hold for thirty seconds, and switch feet in a smooth motion.
- Repeat one or two times per side, multiple times in a day.
- Stand with your back pressed against the wall, with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Then, bend forward as you exhale, in a slow, smooth action. Go as far down as per your comfort.
- Let your hands hang in front of you, and always keep your weight on your feet.
- Inhale again before rolling back up, and press your back against the wall in a step-by-step fashion until you are upright again.
- Repeat two times. If your belly becomes too big, you can do the same seated in a chair.
4. Neck Stretch
- While sitting or standing, bring your head forward and tipped to one side.
- Reach up behind your head with the hand on the same side as your head is tipped, and give your head a gentle pull.
- If you do this while turning your head, you will be able to isolate the muscles on your neck which need stretching.
5. Waist Twist
- Stand with your feet apart at shoulder-width, and knees slightly bent.
- Bring both your arms to the left side at shoulder height, while you look over your right shoulder. Hold the stretch for a time.
- Then, move back slowly and reverse the motion.
- Repeat the actions twice or thrice each time, multiple times a day.
6. Calf Stretches
- Stand 2 feet from a wall, and extend your arms in front of you at shoulder height and width.
- Tilt forward slightly, so that your palms touch the wall while your heels remain on the ground. Hold the stretch for ten seconds.
- Then, slowly push away from the wall.
- Repeat twice. Make sure you don’t wear slippery shoes or socks while performing this stretch.
7. Hamstring Stretch
- Put one foot up on a chair, with both hips and your feet facing forward.
- Then, lean forward on your hips so that you feel a pull on the back of your thighs.
- If the chair is too uncomfortable, try a lower step or something with lesser height.
Stretches, particularly pregnancy hip stretches are instrumental in helping a woman maintain her health during this tumultuous time. Exercise can be good for both, the mother and the child if done correctly. So remember to check with the doctor before starting a stretching regime.