You don’t have to wait until you have your baby to become a strong mama. You can incorporate some simple exercises into your daily routine, while pregnant, to strengthen your body for supporting your growing baby! These exercises are simple, yet can be challenging in pregnancy. Try them out, listen to your body, and advance slowly.
Conditioning your body during pregnancy will not only help you be strong for the physical stress of growing and carrying a baby, but can also help you be in better shape for labor and postpartum. As always, check with your doctor if you have any unusual pain or symptoms and let them know the activities you are doing so you both can be a team for your health and your baby’s health. Here are just a few strengthening and stretching exercises you can do during your pregnancy.
Kegels (Lifting your baby): (stopping flow of urine, draw up muscles between legs)
- Long contraction: Lift and hold for count of 5-10, release and relax for 10-20 seconds. Do sets of 10.
- Normal contraction: Lift and hold for 1-2 counts, release for 10 seconds. Do sets of 10-15.
- Elevator contraction: Contract, tighten, and tighten even more, release. Rest for 10 seconds and repeat. 5-10 repetitions.
**Shoot for 40 total kegels a day. Spread out throughout your day so that you aren’t doing too many at once and making your pelvic floor muscles too tight.**
Transverse Abdominal Exercises (Hugging your baby): (Imagine drawing in stomach, belly button into spine, hugging baby tight with muscles).
1. Isolated Contraction (hollowing out): Bring belly in, engaging the TAs and breathing as you do. Hold for a count of 10 and release for 10-20 seconds. Repeat 10 times. Do in standing position with back against wall (so you can see your baby move into body and making sure low back is flat against wall) or in wall sit position (less than 90 degrees).
2. Pelvic tilts (standing/squatting against wall): Stand with back against wall and fee about 1.5 feet from the wall, slide down into squat position. Pull the abdominal muscles in and try to press low back against wall while exhaling. Hold for 3-5 seconds and release, return to standing position. Do 5-10 reps.
3. Pelvic tilt on Stability ball: Start with the ball in the low- to mid-back, with the body at an incline and the head supported by the hands. Exhale and draw the tailbone up while pulling the abdominal muscles in and tilting the pelvis up (pull the pubic bone toward the navel).
Quadruped progression: Start on all fours, with hands below shoulders and knees below hips. Keep your neck and back straight so your spine is fairly straight all the way down (no sway back). Draw your abdominals into your back and carefully lift one leg off of floor and straighten, reaching toe to back of the room. Hold for a few seconds, lower and switch sides. To progress, alternate by lifting right leg and left arm at the same time, then switching to left leg and right arm. Do sets of 5-10.
Basic Squat: (modify by holding onto chair or pole for support). Start in good standing posture with feet hip width apart. Make sure your abdominals are engaged and your back is as neutral as possible (tuck tailbone under if needed). Initiate move by lower glutes, then bending knees. Keeping knees over toes and back straight lower carefully to depth you are comfortable with. Your butt will be sticking out quite a bit to keep your knees from going in front of your toes. Do sets of 5-10.
Sumo Squat: (Great for stretching out inner thigh muscles for labor). With good standing posture and feet more than hip width apart, and toes pointed to the corners of the room, slowly lower by bending knees and lowering body straight down. Go only as far as is comfortable and hold for a few seconds before carefully coming back up. Use something to hold onto for support. Do 5-10 reps.
Butterfly lifts on side: Start on side with legs bent and feet stacked. Prop up on one elbow or lying down on side with abdominals engaged. Lift top knee up to ceiling keeping leg bent and opening up legs. Repeat 5-10 times per leg.
Shoulder blade presses (packing): Standing straight with arms at sides, move arms back and squeeze shoulder blades together. Hold for count of 10 and release. Do 5-10 reps. Can hold light weights or use resistant band to progress.
Hip hike: For round ligament pain. Stand with hands on hips and feet a few inches apart. Shift weight to the unaffected side, slightly elevate hip (raising hip bone to ear) of side with pain. Hold for a few seconds.
Low back stretch seated: while sitting forward on a chair with the feet on the ground, move the knees apart and round the body forward, allowing the trunk to pass between the legs.
Lying low back stretch: Lying on back with bent knees and feet wider than hip width, reach to the back of the thighs and pull the knees toward the chest with one knee on either side of the belly. Also can be done with one leg at a time.
Cat/Cow stretches: Kneeling on all fours with hands under shoulders and knees slightly wider than the hips, slowly round the back up, tucking the tailbone under and drawing the navel up toward the spine. Then sink the low back down toward the floor with the tailbone up and the shoulder pulled back, lifting the eyes up.
Spinal Rotation: Seated in a chair, reach one arm across the belly and grasp the opposite side of the chair. Look over the shoulder while rotating the low- and mid-back.
Child’s pose: Start by kneeling and sitting back on your heels. Lower your body to the floor and rest your arms on the floor and stretch your forehead toward the floor.
Butterfly pose: Sit on your bottom with your knees bent and in front of your body. Bring your heals together.
Door Jam Stretch: Standing in the threshold of a doorway, place your forearms on either side of the door on the inside of the door jams, bent at a 90 degree angle. Step with one foot through the doorway, in a lunge position. Gently press upper body through doorway, stretching your chest muscles and moving your shoulder blades together in the back.
Make sure you listen to your body when you are exercising and stretching. If a position feels painful or too awkward, double check your form and maybe skip it! Take care of yourself and your baby early on and you won’t regret it!