By Reem Abdulrahman Jassim al-Muftah
Pregnant and feeling tension? Stretching is beneficial for all people and especially pregnant women. Not only does stretching ease those common pregnancy aches and pains and relieve stress but it also helps in preparing the female body for labour. Now although there a huge benefits to stretching it can also be dangerous if not done following the general safety guidelines provided by physical as to pregnant women.
During pregnancy, the body lubricates the joints and ligaments especially around the pelvis area preparing the body for birth and delivery by releasing higher amounts of relaxin and progesterone. Although this is a blessing it is also a curse as pregnant women must be extremely cautious with performing physical activity and movements requiring balance as well as stretching. The loosening of the joints and ligaments can lead to injuries and over-stretching so if the woman wasn’t a stretcher before pregnancy then it is crucial she start slow and with caution. It is also very important she discuss the general wellness routine with her physician prior to engaging in any physical activity, even stretching. It is even more important to consult a physician before attempting to practice yoga, including prenatal yoga as some pregnancy complications could make it risky and the physician would recommend against it.
Once the mother has gotten her physician’s general approval to stretch she should consider the following guidelines:
1. Always warm up before stretching. Stretching when cold can cause muscle injury and in addition to loose joints it is a definite must. To warm up, speed walk or do knee raises in place for 3-5 minutes.
2. Do not bounce in general and do not bounce while stretching. It is very dangerous to bounce while experiencing lubricated and loose joints and ligaments. Bouncing can cause serious injury and can lead to falling and other risky situations.
3. Stretch for 20-30 seconds or build towards a minimum of 20 seconds per stretch. Only hold your stretch if you are comfortable and do not push yourself further if you feel discomfort. You should never feel pain, if you do, stop automatically.
4. Do not attempt to overstretch as you might feel the sensation that you are more flexible due to the hormones. Make sure to listen to your muscles and only feel the stretch, not pain.
The most common and beneficial pregnancy stretches include child’s pose, glutes bridges, seated back and leg stretches, kneeled lunges and the groin opener. There are so many great articles, videos and prenatal blogs that actually show and explain how to do these stretches and some even suggest general stretching routines that can easily be applied during pregnancy and even after.
Stretching is one of the simplest and easiest ways to alleviate stress, tension, pain and body aches. Stretching is also considered exercising as you are moving your body, pushing your muscles and pumping more blood and oxygen around your body. The mother benefits greatly from this increased blood circulation and so does the unborn baby. The same benefits that come from exercising are also associated to those that come from stretching. Therefore, do not underestimate the wonders of stretching as most women who stretched consistently during pregnancy usually recommend it to others.
* The author is the wellness advocate and influencer @keys2balance.
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