Some fitness classes for pregnant women focus heavily on stretching.
If you're expecting a baby, you've likely been bombarded with a seemingly endless stream of things to avoid because they might hurt your baby. It can be hard to keep track of what you can and can't do, and you might be tempted to err on the side of safety and avoid stretching while you're pregnant. But stretching won't hurt your baby if you take basic safety precautions, and exercise during pregnancy is a healthy strategy for you.
Stretching During Pregnancy
Stretching during pregnancy won't harm your baby, and it can make pregnancy less uncomfortable for you. Particularly as you gain weight, you may experience muscle soreness and joint discomfort. Stretching keeps your muscle tissue healthy and can help alleviate the pain. It can also improve muscle strength and endurance, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) points out that this may even make labor easier.
Pregnancy hormones can cause your ligaments to relax, making you seem more flexible, according to ACOG. However, this makes it easier to move your joints into inappropriate positions, making you more vulnerable to injury. Stretches that encourage bouncing or put large amounts of force on your muscles can increase your risk of injury, as can forcing a stretch. If something is painful or you think you'd be unable to do it if you weren't pregnant, steer clear.
You should choose your stretching routine based upon your current level of physical fitness. If you're just beginning to stretch, a beginner-level class for pregnant women could be ideal. Yoga and Pilates can both help you stretch your muscles, but you can also do basic stretches at home. Try touching your toes, rolling your ankles, extending your elbows toward your back, moving your neck from side to side and raising your legs to get a good stretch.
Is Yoga Safe?
If you're devoted yogi, you likely don't need to give up your practice entirely, though you need to confirm with your doctor. However, you may need to make some modifications to your practice. Let your instructor know that you're pregnant so they can instruct you on how to modify the poses accordingly, or attend a prenatal yoga class already designed to be safe for pregnancy.
If you're planning to stretch because you're concerned about more strenuous exercise, you don't need to worry. The ACOG recommends that pregnant women get 30 minutes of exercise on most days of the week. The only exercises that are dangerous are those that carry a risk of falling or being hit in the stomach. Steer clear of contact sports, horseback riding, skiing and similar forms of exercise.