There are tons of benefits to stretching and exercising both while pregnant and after you’ve given birth. According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise during pregnancy can improve sleep, prevent excess weight gain, and reduce backaches and bloating. But before you jump into an exercise program while pregnant, it’s important to make sure your movements are safe for both you and your baby.
When it comes to prenatal stretches, the key, according to Dr. Thoma Gustin, is the frequency of movement rather than the specific movements themselves.
“I will sit on a yoga ball and do a million different stretches,” she told Bronfman. “Postural related pain is from not moving a lot so the more you move, the less pain you’re going to feel. So I just try to move a lot, try to stretch a lot. If I’m standing in the kitchen, I’ll stretch. If I’m watching TV, I’ll stretch. So the amount of time I stretch is the biggest key versus exactly the stretch that I’m doing.”
Focusing on the pelvic floor
However, one area that Dr. Thoma Gustin recommends focusing on in both prenatal and postnatal exercises are the pelvic floor muscles.
Bronfman shares that the pelvic floor was an area of focus during her pregnancy, explaining that she was told that the tighter the pelvic floor is going into the birth process, the harder it will be to get the baby through the canal.
Dr. Thoma Gustin agreed and explained that prenatal exercises that focus on the pelvic floor are all about relaxation.
“You need to have your pelvic floor be able to relax. That is a huge part of giving birth,” she tells Bronfman. Dr. Thoma Gustin goes on to recommend relaxation-type techniques like perineal massages, which stretches and relaxes the perineal tissue (the area between the opening of the vagina and the anus) to prevent tearing during childbirth and potential issues with the pelvic floor.
Similarly when it comes to post-birth exercises, Dr. Thoma Gustin recommends building the pelvic floor muscles back up. She says this can even be done in the first 6 weeks post-birth, ahead of jumping back into a full postnatal exercise routine.
“You do want to start turning on those deep core pelvic floor muscles,” she explains. “And that’s with the breathwork, or practice zipping up your core and lifting that pelvic floor and relaxing it. Really starting to turn those things on, because those things aren’t super taxing. You can do it just sitting down, laying down, or while you’re breastfeeding.”
Of course, as with any prenatal or postnatal exercise, check with your healthcare provider about what works best for you and your baby.
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