Guidelines for Perinatal Stretching

Updated: Apr 24, 2020

Benefits of stretching during pregnancy and postpartum can be fantastic! But there are some guidelines that you should follow and some points you need to be aware of. So, we are going to discuss those today! 

1. Relaxin

This is a hormone that your body produces during pregnancy and can continue to produce days and even weeks postpartum as well. This hormone is necessary during pregnancy as it helps your joints and ligaments elongate and stretch, so that your body can accommodate a growing baby. However, the increased laxity in your joints means that you will be hyperflexible and if you overstretch while relaxin is present in your body, you could end up doing more harm than good to your joints. 

2. Stretching Shouldn't Hurt

While you may experience some discomfort while stretching tight muscles, you should not be in pain. If you are stretching to the point that it hurts, back off a little bit until you get to where you just feel the stretch, not pain. 

3. Ease into Stretching

If you haven’t ever done a lot of stretching, you cannot expect that you will be an expert from the get-go. You may only be able to reach your shins when trying to touch your toes – that’s totally fine! Go as far as you can while feeling the stretch, but not in pain and hold it. The more you stretch and the more consistent you are with it the better you will get at it!

4. Take your Time

I think one of the biggest problems with stretching is that we don’t stretch for long enough. We hold each stretch for a few seconds and then move on to the next one. If you want stretching to be effective, you need to be holding each stretch for at least 30-45 seconds. You don’t have to stretch every muscle in your body every day, but set aside time each day to thoroughly stretch at least one part of your body. 

5. Stretch After Exercise

This one isn’t always easy; when you’re done with your workout, you want to be done. However, if you plan in 5-10 minutes at the end of every workout to stretch – especially stretching the muscles that you worked in your exercise that day – you will find that you’ll be much less sore in the following days. 

6. Breathe!

It can be tempting to hold your breath while you’re trying to hold a stretch, but that’s not what I want! As you hold a stretch, take deep breaths in and out during the entirety of the hold. Focus on breathing into the muscle or muscles that you are stretching and relaxing it. When you’re really tight your muscles can tense and resist the stretch that you’re trying to perform. Deep, slow breaths can help relieve some of that tension and help you get the most out of your stretch. 

Keep these tips in mind as your stretch throughout your pregnancy and into postpartum as well. You may find that the time you stretch becomes your favorite time of day! 

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