Stretching Adaptations for Pregnant Clients

Stretching during pregnancy can help relieve your clients of pregnancy-related aches and pains. During pregnancy, clients will likely feel nauseous and fatigued. Stretching during pregnancy has been shown to reduce these symptoms. Stretching also helps keep your clients fit and healthy whilst preparing for labour and postnatal recovery. As exercise professionals, we know how beneficial exercise can be for our physical and mental health. During pregnancy, we want to ensure our clients remain active while protecting the health of them and their babies. In this article, we will be discussing how you can keep your pregnant clients healthy with stretching exercises.

Stretching and Pregnancy

During pregnancy, there is an increase in the hormone relaxin. Relaxin helps relax the body, cervix, and ligaments during labour. But, relaxin also lubricates and loosens the joints and ligaments surrounding the pelvis. Thus, there is an increased chance of overstretching during stretching activities. As a result, injury can occur as a result of overstretching. 

Throughout pregnancy pectorals, hamstrings, hip adductors, and hip flexors tend to become tight. Therefore, particular attention should be placed on these areas.

Stretching Adaptations 

During pregnancy, clients should take things slowly and not force themselves into deep stretches. It is advised clients do not perform any exercise in the supine position after the first trimester. Doing so can cause complications and restrict blood flow to the baby. 

Clients should follow their doctor’s/ante natal nurse’s advice before undergoing any form of physical activity. Please consider their advice before prescribing any form of exercise and ensure you perform a thorough and appropriate health screening. There are certain complications associated with pregnancy that can make exercises dangerous for your client and their baby.

Different stretches can help relieve pain in various areas of the body.

Back Pain and Sciatica 

Cat-Cow

The cat-cow reduces back and hip pain while increasing spine mobility and lubrication.

  1. In a kneeling position, place your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips.
  2. Inhale while arching your back, bringing your stomach towards the floor.
  3. Pause briefly.
  4. Exhale while rounding your back, bringing your upper back up to the sky.  
  5. Continue alternating between positions. 

Chair Based Half Pigeon 

The chair-based half pigeon can help reduce tightness and pain around the lower back and hips.

  1. Begin seated with your feet flat on the floor. 
  2. Bring one foot over your opposite knee. 
  3. During exhalation, lean your torso forward. 
  4. Hold for 30 seconds before repeating on the opposite side. 

Pelvis and Hip

Deep Lunge/Hip Flexor Stretch 

Changes in the position of the pelvic tilt during pregnancy can cause the hips to get tight. The deep lunge helps relieve tension in the front of your hips. 

  1. Begin in a kneeling position on a comfortable surface. 
  2. Step one foot forward to create a 90-degree angle. 
  3. Exhale while leaning your torso and hips forward. 
  4. Hold for 30 seconds before repeating on the opposite side. 

Chest 

As the bump enlarges it puts pressure on the breasts, diaphragm, and rib cage. The chest stretch can help relieve this pain. 

Doorway Chest Stretch

  1. Standing in a doorway, place hands at shoulder height. 
  2. Step forward until you feel a stretch through your chest. 
  3. Hold for 30 seconds before repeating with the opposite foot stepped forwards. 

Making Adaptations 

Throughout pregnancy, stretching becomes harder and it’s more difficult to get into desired positions. A range of equipment can be used to help support clients with balance and stability while stretching. 

  • Chair-Based: Performing stretches on a chair takes weight off the client so they feel more balanced and secure. 
  • Swiss Ball: Swiss balls help clients maintain balance and stability as well as helps keep their abdominal muscles strong.
  • Walls or Stable Surfaces: Clients can hold onto a wall or stable surface to help take some of their weight. Performing stretches next to a stable surface also helps clients feel more safe and confident. 
  • Yoga Blocks: Yoga blocks can be used to help extend the stretch, or they can be used to support the back, head, and hips during a stretch. 

Moving to and From the Floor Safely 

Throughout pregnancy, the abdominals stretch over the ever-growing bump. To minimise the risk of injury to your client and their baby, it’s important they know how to safely move to and from the floor. The same goes for laying in bed, or on the sofa. 

Moving From the Floor 

  1. Roll onto your side.
  2. Push your torso up using your top hand followed by your bottom hand.
  3. Move into a wide kneeling position.
  4. Stepping one foot at a time, come into a wide squat position while resting your hands on the floor for support.
  5. Bring your elbows to your knees.
  6. Place your hands on your knees then push through your palms to come into an upright position. 
  7. Drive through your midfoot to return to standing. 

Moving From the Floor 

  1. Lower the hips into a partial wide squat position.
  2. Place your hands on your knees. 
  3. Place your elbows on your knees while leaning your torso forwards. 
  4. Place your hands on the floor to absorb some of the weight. 
  5. Come onto all fours, then move into a kneeling position. 
  6. Use your hands to lower yourself onto your side. 
  7. Roll onto your back. 

References 

Downs, D. S., Chasan-Taber, L., Evenson, K. R., Leiferman, J., & Yeo, S. (2012). Physical activity and pregnancy: past and present evidence and future recommendations. Research quarterly for exercise and sport, 83(4), 485–502. https://doi.org/10.1080/02701367.2012.10599138 

If you would like to train to become a Pre and Postnatal/Ante and Postnatal fitness instructor then have a look at the full course requirements here. It’s a very important service that is greatly needed in a lot of regions.

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