Flexibility Post partum
Flexibility is really important to your health and well-being.
The hormone relaxin is released during pregnancy to do as it says really, it relaxes the ligaments in the pelvis and widens the cervix.
Should I stretch?
Yes before and after exercise you should stretch but due to relaxin and other pregnancy hormones joint laxity can be effected so therefore it is important not to over stretch as over stretched muscles and ligaments can cause joints to become less stable, weak and therefore more prone to injury. The effects of relaxin can last up to 5 months in a post natal woman.
How should I stretch?
It is advisable to only hold a stretch for 8-15 seconds post par tum to reduce the risk of over stretching, and you should avoiding stretching the abdominals as they tend to be over stretched anyway post partum. That said if you do think you have tight muscles you should go and see a specialist in this area to ensure you are doing the correct stretches post partum.
You should stretch all the muscles used or that will be used in the exercises, providing they are not already lengthened (the abdominal muscles for example). Pre-workout you need to be stretching standing up and keeping your feet moving then normally after a workout and cool down we would stretch seated or laying down but this might be more uncomfortable for you.
Muscles commonly tight and in need of stretching are the Chest Muscles , Neck & Shoulder muscles, Hip Flexors, Hamstrings, Piriformis, Inner thigh, Calves and the Lumbar extensors (muscles that run down along the spine & Lower back.
Muscles that are commonly weak during pregnancy and therefore need more strengthening rather than stretching are the Lower Traps, Upper back muscles, Glutes, Quads, Abdominals & The Pelvic Floor.
You also need to be mindful of what stretches are comfortable for you , you may suffer from carpel tunnel syndrome and it may be hard for you to be in a 4 point kneeling position. Or if you are breastfeeding lying face down might be uncomfortable.
You should always stretch warm, check out the blog on warming up and cool downs.
You can also find stretches in our exercise description page or find some in the community.