Guest post by Ms Heather Green.
Pregnancy Exercises – Maintaining a regular exercise program is said to be able to relieve a number of common pregnancy problems and complaints, including helping to improve sleep, energy levels and digestion.
It is also said to help relieve back pain, sciatica, pelvic pain and leg cramps. Some experts even suggest that it can help women have an easier and normal delivery and a faster recovery. Most women can continue a modified version of their previous exercise program during pregnancy. However, there are a number of specific exercises that can be done to help relieve pregnancy pains and symptoms. Here are a few to try:
Disclaimer – Consult your doctor before trying any of these exercises during pregnancy.
Kegels in pregnancy
Kegels are a great exercise to perform before, during and after pregnancy. They help to strengthen the pelvic wall, treat incontinence and constipation, and improve circulation in the pelvic region. During pregnancy, they are particularly helpful in strengthening pelvic muscles to guard against pelvic pain and to help ease labor.
To perform kegels, squeeze the muscles in your vagina as if you were trying to stop the flow of urine. (However, do not perform kegels to actually stop the flow of urine, as this can lead to infections.) Squeeze the muscles, hold for a count of 5 or 10, and release. Repeat 10 times and perform three or four sets per day. Be careful not to engage your abdominal or rectal muscles and to focus only on your pelvic muscles.
Read related: Why to avoid Pranayama During Pregnancy is not recommended?
Pelvic Tilts in pregnancy
Pelvic tilts can help strengthen abdominal muscles to relieve lower back pain and to prepare a woman for labor. To perform a pelvic tilt, just lie on your back with your knees bent and feet resting flat on the floor. Flatten your lower back to touch the floor and squeeze your buttocks. Release and repeat. You can also perform pelvic tilts by getting down on your hands and knees. With feet and shoulders hip-width apart, tighten your abdominal muscles and tuck your buttocks under while rounding your back. Release and repeat. Try holding each movement 3 to 10 seconds, and repeat 10 times for one to three sets.
Read related: How to avoid and relieve cramps during pregnancy
Squats are a great way to strengthen the muscles in your legs, as well as to open your pelvis and prepare it for birth. Since pregnancy hormones relax the ligaments and joints in your body, it is not recommended to do free-standing deep squats or to use heavy weights. However, this modified squat is designed to support you and use your own body weight for strength building. Stand with your back against a wall and your feet about 1 to 2 feet from the wall. Contract your abdominal muscles and press your lower back into the wall as you squat down as if you were going to sit in a chair. When your knees reach a 90-degree angle, rise slowly. Perform 1 to 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
Read related: Precautions and benefits of massage during pregnancy
Stretching during pregnancy
Many of pregnancy’s aches and pains can be caused by tense and strained muscles. You can help alleviate some of this tension by relaxing and stretching muscles. Areas to focus on include your back, neck, shoulders, and calves.
To stretch your back, get down on your hands and knees, with your hands placed out in front of your body slightly. Sit back on your knees and stretch your arms forward to stretch your back and spine.
To stretch your calves, try flexing your foot with your toes towards you. This is especially useful if muscle cramps strike. You can also place one foot in front of you in a modified lunge, then move the opposite foot behind you to stretch the calf.
Read related: Back pain pregnancy tips
Walking and swimming during pregnancy
A simple exercise routine that consists of light walking and swimming can also do a lot to alleviate pregnancy symptoms. These exercises are considered low-impact and safe for pregnant women, yet they help tone muscles and maintain fitness. They can also relieve pressure on the lower back and bottom. Try walking or swimming for 20 to 45 minutes most days of the week to see results. If you can’t keep that pace, walking a few times a week or just for 10 minutes a day can offer health benefits.
While pregnancy symptoms can often make women feel less able to exercise, doing so can actually relieve symptoms and offer relief. These targeted exercises can also address problems that are causing the symptoms, bringing faster relief.
Born and raised in North Carolina, Heather Green has worked as a fashion and beauty consultant as well as a freelancer for various wedding, fashion, and health publications.