To stretch or not to stretch during pregnancy, it’s confusing isn’t it?
On the one hand, you hear how loose and unstable your body is during pregnancy and how you must be careful of overstretching and injury. On the other hand, you hear about all the tight muscles, aches and pains that are associated with being an expectant mum and it seems logical to stretch. So what should you do?
Relaxin is the hormone that causes laxity in your body during pregnancy. Initially it’s job is to expand the arteries and veins ready for the increase in blood flow that will occur by around 16 weeks. It’s other job is to loosen the pelvis, a structure that is like a puzzle of bones held together by ligaments, so it can dilate for the baby to pass through during birth.
What is important to realise is that Relaxin does not only affect the pelvis, but all the joints in the body and often from quite early on in pregnancy. It’s affect is not the same across the board with some women noticing its affects as early as 3 months and others not until the last 3 months.
The contradiction between feeling ‘tight’ and ‘loose’ at the same time stems from the fact that relaxin affects mostly the tendons and ligaments around the joints, not the muscles. It is your connective tissue and joint that has become hypermobile and susceptible to overstretching and injury, not your muscles. In fact, due to the laxity in the body some muscles are actually more likely to get tight and cause pain because there is more, or a different kind of pressure on them, due to the other physical changes happening in your body. Increased weight, changing posture, enlarged breasts and the protrusion of your baby bump can cause pulling and strains that your body has not experienced before.
Stretching is advisable during pregnancy to keep it mobile and avoid aches and pains, but must be done with care. Your aim is to gently elongate a tight muscle, without overstretching your ligaments, by going too far. Remember, just because it goes further than it did before pregnancy, doesn’t mean it should.
Tips to remember:
Stretching minimises neck and back ache, as well as leg cramps.
Stretch in a comfortable position, such as sitting, so you won’t loose your balance.
Stretching during pregnancy is about maintaining mobility, rather than increasing flexibility.