Chiropractors are trained in the musculoskeletal system and the changes that occur during pregnancy – from hormonal changes to the shift of the the pelvis and sacrum to allow for a natural birth. At SC Custom Chiropractic, we use a pregnancy-specific chiropractic technique called Webster technique, do soft tissue work, and prescribe safe and effective exercises and stretches during pregnancy to compliment the treatment received.
What are the benefits of exercises and stretches during pregnancy?
Exercise is one of the best and easiest ways for pregnant women to improve their and their baby’s health. As your pregnancy progresses, your posture shifts to redistribute the weight of your growing baby. At this time, a lot of pregnant women start to feel tightness in the low back, neck and chest. The good news: stretching and exercising can help alleviate pain during pregnancy and strengthen specific muscles.
Some health benefits include:
- Easier childbirth
- Reduced stress and anxiety
- Improved sleep
- Improved mood
- Reduced risk of gestational diabetes and pregnancy-induced hypertension
- And feeling better!
How much and how often should I exercise?
This question is challenging to answer as it depends on the previous activity level as well as health of the mama. Generally, for someone who exercised regularly before becoming pregnant and does not have underlying health conditions, 150 minutes of low to moderate intensity exercise is recommended weekly. This can be done 5 times per week for 30 minutes. If you are an athlete, you can exercise at a higher intensity for a longer period of time. Talk to your doctor if you want to add more exercise at a higher intensity. And regardless of your fitness level, never hold your breath when exercising; maintain deep breaths throughout exercises and stretches during pregnancy.
Recommended exercises during pregnancy:
- Kegels are a great exercise to strengthen the pelvic floor and abdominal musculature which helps to maintain bladder control and reduce the risk of hemorrhoids. It is best to do this exercise with an empty bladder in a sitting or lying down position. Try to envision picking up a marble with your vagina first and then try again with anus. You should feel a contraction through your pelvic floor; hold this contraction for 3-5 seconds, then relax the musculature and do it 10 more times, 3-4 times per day.
- Thread the needle is an effective upper back mobility exercise. Start on all fours keeping your hands beneath your shoulders and your knees below your hips. Find a neutral spine and brace your core. Starting on the right side, straighten your right arm and move your arm under your chest towards the left. Then start to move towards the right side, opening your chest with your right arm straight, reaching up towards the ceiling. Direct your gaze toward your raised hand. Do 5-10 repetitions on the right and then repeat on to the left side.
- Cat/camel exercise is also for upper back mobility. Start in the same position as for thread the needle, but this time maintain the contact with your hands and feet on the floor. Pretend there is a string pulling you up from your upper back, rounding your upper back. Hold this position for 3-5 seconds before pushing your chest towards the ground and arching your back, holding for 3-5 seconds. Repeat this movement 10 times.
- Wall angels help to work actively on your posture while stretching your chest. This is an exercise Dr. Mati has been doing daily, even prior to her pregnancy. Start standing against the wall and pretend there is a magnet pulling you towards the wall; tuck your chin in (give yourself a “double chin”), roll your shoulders back, contract your core, bend your elbows to 90 degrees and rotate your arms. Your shoulders, arms and back of your hands should all be touching the wall in a “hands up” position. Slowly move your arms up and over your head to form a wide V” while maintaining contact between your elbows, hands and the wall. Only go as high as you can to maintain contact with the wall. Bend your elbows and lower your arms back to the starting positions by actively pulling your shoulder blades down. Repeat 15 times for 3 rounds.
- Suitcase carries are a great exercise to strengthen your internal and external abdominals as well as prepare you for carrying car seats once the baby is born. You can use a kettlebell, dumbbell, or a big water bottle for the weight. Start holding the weight in one hand and stand up straight. Squeezing your shoulder blades together, tuck your chin in and find a neutral pelvis. You should feel the weight pulling you towards one side, while you actively engage your core to maintain an upright position. Slowly start walking forward for 10 steps forward while maintaining good posture.
- Sit to stand is a simple exercise you can practice every time you stand up from a chair, sofa, or toilet. This exercise activates your glute muscles. Make sure that the chair is stable before sitting on the edge of the chair with your legs at 90 degrees and your feet firmly planted on the floor. From here, stand up by engaging your glutes with your arms in front of you. For an extra challenge, cross your arms on your chest. Repeat this movement 10 times for 3 rounds.
- Posterior pelvic tilts help to contract your transverse abdominis. Start by laying on your back with your knees at 90 degrees and shoulder width apart. From here, flatten your back so that there is no space between your back and floor. You should feel the contraction through your deep core. Hold this position for up to 5 seconds and then relax. Repeat for 10-15 repetitions for 3 sets and be sure not to hold your breath.
- Banded glute bridges have the same starting positions as the posterior pelvic tilts except there will be a resistance band on your waist. The band helps to engage your glute medius. Lift up your hips towards the ceiling so that there is a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Make sure to engage your glutes entire time and maintain resistance. Repeat 10-15 times for 3 sets.
All of these are low impact and safe to continue throughout your entire pregnancy and beyond. As you progress into your third trimester, you can modify from weighted exercises to using body weight or resistance bands.
Great stretches throughout pregnancy:
- Neck stretches can be done seated or standing. The important thing is to isolate your neck when stretching and not lean toward one side. Start by placing your right hand behind your back and bend your neck toward the left side, using your left hand to pull your neck across to the left. The stretch is felt on the right side of the neck. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds before turning your head towards your left shoulder. This stretch should be felt more towards the back on the right side of your neck. Repeat on the other side.
- Lacrosse ball rolling is like a self-massage for most muscles of your body. Pin the ball between you and the wall and roll up and down and side to side to massage the muscle of your choice. Make sure not to roll over your spine or any boney parts.
- Figure 4 stretch is one of Dr. Mati’s favorites! It helps to stretch your gluteal complex. There are two ways to do this stretch. One variation starts with sitting on the edge of a stable chair with one foot planted firmly on the floor and your other ankle above the thigh of your planted leg (like a figure 4). Push down on your knee to feel a stretch in the glutes. To intensify the stretch, lean your body towards your knee. Repeat on the opposite side.
- Child’s pose helps to stretch the entire back by kneeling on the floor and leaning the upper body over your knees while the reaching in front of you with your arms. Breath deeply into your belly and relax in this position. For a deeper stretch down your side, reach your arms towards the left and hold. Then, towards the right and hold.
Hold all of these stretches for at least 30 seconds to the point of stretch, not pain. Repeat twice per day for maximum benefit.
If you have specific pain or concerns, you can book an appointment and our doctors will create a customized treatment plan including exercises and stretches during pregnancy for you to start feeling your best throughout your journey of becoming a mom.