Stretches during pregnancy to help you feel better!
Pregnancy can bring with it a number of aches and pains. Your body changes so quickly and that can be a lot to deal with. That’s why I’ve put together these pregnancy stretches for you to try. They’re great for the times when you feel like you just want to loosen up a little without exerting yourself and doing a workout.
The following prenatal stretches are suitable throughout pregnancy for low risk, healthy individuals. However, please contact your midwife or lead maternity carer if you are unsure whether they are right for you.
These stretches can also be suitable for starting back out on a fitness regime post pregnancy. They are easy to do at home with baby, as they require minimal equipment and time! Again, please consult with your lead maternity carer and also listen to your own body to determine when you are ready to get started on a post natal fitness regime.
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Guidelines for your pregnancy stretches
It’s ideal to do a light form of cardio exercise before completing the stretches as this will help lubricate the joints and warm the muscles up, thus decreasing the potential for injury. I would suggest a 5-10 minute walk. If you are feeling super energetic, you could do a walk, followed by some bodyweight/resistance band conditioning exercises (grab yours below), and then finishing with these stretches.
Stretches should always be done at a low intensity (whether you are pregnant or not)! Take the stretch to the point where you can feel it but there is no pain. As there are different hormones circulating the body during pregnancy, it’s important that you are careful not to over-stretch. Listen to your body, and if something doesn’t feel right, or you are feeling pain in the joints, please take a rest. Breathe continuously whilst doing the stretches.
Stretches should be held for a minimum of 15 seconds to lengthen the muscle. They can be held for 30-60 seconds if you wish to progress towards becoming more flexible.
Many of the following pregnancy stretches have been done using a chair for support. I did these when I was 36 or 38 weeks pregnant with my first child. By this stage in my pregnancy I needed to be taking the weight off my feet whenever I could. Therefore, seated stretches were a great option. All the stretches can be modified to be done from either a standing or seated position.
Bear in mind that the best stretches for pregnancy are the ones that serve your body and make you feel rejuvenated. Choose a position that is right for you based on the stage you’re at in your pregnancy and how you’re feeling that day.
12 gentle pregnancy stretches
1. Pregnancy stretches – Neck
Sit or stand up tall (whichever is more comfortable) and use your hand to gently pull your head to the side, feeling a stretch down one side of the neck. Repeat both sides.
Sit or stand up tall (whichever is more comfortable) and gently turn your head to one side as far as you can. Repeat both sides.
2. Pregnancy stretches – shoulders
Sit or stand up tall (whichever is more comfortable) and bring one arm (extended) across the body. Use the other hand to bring arm close to the body. Keep shoulders square to the front, and down, away from the ears. Repeat both sides
3. Pregnancy stretches – Upper back
Sit or stand up tall (whichever is more comfortable) and join hands together with arms stretched straight out in front of you. Drop your head forward slightly and push arms and shoulders forward until you feel a stretch through your upper back
If you’re enjoying these pregnancy stretches then you’ll probably love my gentle yoga routine designed specifically for pregnancy. Download your FREE copy below. That way you can save to your laptop or phone and use it whenever you like (or you can even print it out if you like).
4. Pregnancy stretches – Chest
Sit or stand up tall (whichever is more comfortable) and clasp both hands behind your back. Draw shoulder blades back and down. You can also pull the hands away from the body to enhance the stretch.
5. Pregnancy stretches – Side flexors
Stand up tall and cross one leg behind the other (you could also do this in a seated position and just perform the arm action). Reach the arm up into the air that is on the same side as the leg at the back.
Reach the extended arm up as high as you can, and then over to the side, whilst also letting your torso bend the same way. You should feel a stretch all the way down the side of the body. The hand on your hip will help to keep you stable and supported. Repeat both sides.
6. Pregnancy stretches – hip flexors
Stand up and place one foot in front of the other. Lift the back heel up and tilt the pelvis underneath/push the hips forward to feel a stretch through the front of the back leg. Repeat both sides.
7. Pregnancy stretches – Long Calf (back of lower leg)
Stand up and take a step forward. Keep both feet facing forward and heels on the ground, and bend front leg, whilst keeping the back leg straight. Bend front knee as much as you need to, and if you can’t feel a stretch, try taking a longer step. Repeat both sides. You can also try placing your hands on a wall in front of you for support for this stretch and the following stretch. This may help you to stay balanced more easily.
8. Pregnancy stretches – Short calf muscle (lower down on back of lower leg)
Stand up and take a small step forward. Keep both feet facing forward and heels on the ground, and bend both legs, whilst keeping weight through the back leg. You should feel the stretch through the lower back part of the back leg, right down to the Achilles tendon. Repeat both sides.
9. Pregnancy Stretches – Hamstring (back of thigh)
Stand up and take one leg out in front of you and up onto a chair. It’s a good idea to soften (slightly bend) both knees. Stand tall with a straight back, and slightly lean forward as the hips, until you feel a stretch through the back of the raised leg.
Keep your hips square to the front whilst doing so (i.e. avoid twisting into the movement). Experiment by flexing the toes back towards you, and then pointing them, to see how the stretch feels different in each position. Repeat both sides.
10. Pregnancy stretches – quads (front of thigh)
Lightly rest a hand on a chair in front of you, if needed for balance/stability. Stand up tall and take the weight onto one leg. Bend the other knee by taking foot up behind you and take hold of that foot with the hand on the same side. Pull foot towards your butt whilst pushing hip forward. Ensure knees stay close together and hips stay square to the front. Repeat both sides.
11. Pregnancy stretches – Glutes (buttocks)
Lightly rest a hand on a chair in front or to the side of you, if needed for balance/stability (otherwise you can place the hand on your hip). Bend as deeply as possible into one leg, and cross the other leg over the top. It might be easier at this point to then bend the standing leg further, if you are able to.
If you’re having trouble balancing on this one, you could also do the same stretch in a seated position on your chair. Shift forward to sit on the front edge of the seat, and get into the same position with one leg crossed over the other as pictured.
Let the knee of the top leg drop to the side to open the hips. Apply pressure to the inside of the knee with the hand on the same side of the body if you are able to – this will enhance the stretch. Repeat both sides.
12. Pregnancy stretches – inner thigh
Stand up tall and take the legs as wide as you can comfortably, with the feet turned out slightly. Gently bend into one leg, letting the knee follow the direction of the foot, and rest both hands on top of that knee. The other leg stays straight, with both the inside and outside of the foot remaining on the ground. Keep back straight throughout and head in line with the spine. Repeat both sides.
That’s it! I hope these prenatal stretches helped you to feel better today:-). Please reach out by leaving a comment in the box below if you have any questions. I’ve also included a couple of pinnable images below so you can save them to Pinterest and come back to these stretches later.
A few other things you might want to check out if you’re pregnant are this expert’s guide to yoga during pregnancy and this article which covers safe and effective exercise guidelines for pregnancy. Enjoy!
P.S. And check out these great ideas for pampering yourself during pregnancy!
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