The muscles in a woman’s body can undergo a great deal of strain during pregnancy. Maybe you’ve experienced this strain in the form of tightness in your hips or low back. Performing stretches can help lengthen and loosen muscles, relieve tightness throughout your body, and promote relaxation, especially during pregnancy. Pregnancy stretches can sometimes even help pain that can creep up as your body changes to accommodate a growing baby. Specific pelvic floor stretches can even help to prepare these muscles for labor.
Warm Up Before Stretching
It is key to be gentle with stretching while pregnant due to hormones that cause more laxity (or looseness) in joints. When you stretch you should feel it directly at the major muscle groups, not in your joints.
A warm-up prior to doing stretches is essential to get your blood pumping to all your major muscle groups to make the stretch more beneficial. It can entail simply walking around your house for a few minutes to increase blood flow throughout your body and bring more oxygen into your muscles. With warm muscles, you’ll be able to get the most out of your stretches.
These three pelvic floor stretches are great for the pelvic floor and low back. Plus, they are safe to do while pregnant. They are the perfect stretches for pregnant mamas who want to prepare their bodies for delivery, or who are experiencing some pain and discomfort as baby starts to cause some strain to the pelvic floor muscles.
1. Legs Up the Wall
The “legs up the wall” stretch is beneficial for stretching the pelvic floor and low back. It also promotes relaxation and is often used in restorative yoga.
To perform this stretch:
- Sit sideways against a wall with one hip as close to the wall as possible. (You may want to place a pillow under your hips.)
- Carefully lie down onto your side with knees bent and roll onto your back.
- Lift and straighten your legs gently and prop them against the wall.
- If needed, use your hands and arms to gently slide your hips closer to the wall to a position where your legs don't feel tight.
- Fully relax your legs and pelvic floor, breathe slowly/deeply.
- Hold this position for 1-3 minutes, taking deep belly breaths.
- To get up, slowly roll to your side with your knees bent and then sit yourself up or transition to hands and knees. Take your time getting up, resting on the floor before standing.
2. Happy Baby
The Happy Baby stretch is also beneficial for stretching the pelvic floor and low back.
To do the happy baby stretch:
- Lie on your back.
- Bringing one leg up at a time, bend your knees and grab the outside of your feet or ankles.
- Hold this position for 1-3 minutes, taking deep breaths.
- To get up, slowly roll to your side with your knees bent and then sit yourself up or transition to hands and knees.
3. Butterfly Stretch
The butterfly is a simple stretch for the pelvic floor and hips. To perform the butterfly stretch"
- Lie on your back with legs and feet together and knees bent up.
- Slowly allow your knees fall out to the sides.
- If this stretch is too intense, use a pillow or rolled-up blanket under each knee for support to allow your legs to completely relax.
- Hold this position for 1-3 minutes, breathing deeply and relaxing the pelvic floor muscles.
A few things to note: If you start to feel dizzy or lightheaded, be sure to come out of the stretch. While holding a position, always try to take slow, deep breaths, instead of holding your breath. Don’t push through a stretch to the point that feels painful; you should only feel a gentle “pull” or stretch at the muscles. If you find it hard to get comfortable during a stretch, try simply deep breathing first to allow your body to relax more. If you continue to notice discomfort with stretching it may be beneficial to seek out further help from a physical therapist to determine what is causing the pain, discomfort, or tightness.
Whole-body exercise and pelvic floor stretches may help you to have a more comfortable pregnancy and keep pain from creeping in, if performed properly.
Pain that lasts longer than 2 weeks during pregnancy and limits your everyday activities is NOT normal and should be addressed! If you’re not as comfortable as you could be during pregnancy, download our FREE guide, “5 Ways to Have a Pain-Free Pregnancy.” If you have questions about how you can further prepare your pelvic floor for an easier labor and better recovery, contact us to set up a time to chat!