Source: Adapted from Healthy Bones, Muscles & Joints, Reader’s Digest
During the first few months of pregnancy, before your bump grows too big, you can perform exercises for your back and shoulders that will stretch and strengthen the muscles around your back and spine, helping to improve posture and prevent backache later on in your pregnancy.
As your bump grows larger and heavier, however, many exercises for your lower back are no longer so suitable. You won’t be able to lie on your front and you should avoid doing exercises on your back after the first trimester because this can place pressure on blood vessels and restrict blood flow to your heart and your baby.
To strengthen your lower back and reduce backache after the first trimester of pregnancy, try these exercises instead.
The turning motion in this exercise helps to maintain the flexibility of your spine and release muscular tension in your upper back, neck and shoulders.
- Sit on a cushion on the floor with your legs loosely crossed. If it feels more comfortable, place a cushion under each knee to support your legs. Keep your spine straight.
- Keeping your spine held vertical, very slowly turn your upper body to the left. Place your right hand on your thigh above your left knee and your left hand on the floor just behind you. Hold and count to 5 before turning back to face the front. Repeat 5–10 times.
This aims to increase the suppleness in the lower back and can help to ease backache during late pregnancy. If you have carpal tunnel syndrome and the hand position causes discomfort, try using your knuckles instead of your palms.
- Position yourself on your hands and knees with your hands placed flat on the floor and your knees a little apart. Keep your neck in line with your spine and your back flat.
- Tuck your head in towards your chest, clench your buttock muscles and tuck in your pelvis so that your back gently arches up into a hump. Hold and count to 5 before relaxing the back down. Repeat 5–10 times.
This exercise stretches your lower back and your buttocks. As your baby grows bigger you can move your knees wider apart to better accommodate your pregnancy bump.
- Position yourself on your hands and knees, with your hands placed flat on the floor and just in front of your head. Support your abdomen with a cushion if necessary.
- Slowly rock back until your buttocks rest on your heels and your arms stretch forward. Walk your hands forward to increase the stretch slightly. Hold and count to 5 before moving back up. Repeat 5–10 times.
It is important to bear the following points in mind when exercising during pregnancy:
- Warm up and cool down before and after exercise. You may be more liable to injury when pregnant, so it is important to prepare your body and give it a chance to wind down.
- Drink plenty of fluids. Pregnancy raises your body temperature, so it is easy to become dehydrated. You should drink at least 2 litres (about 15 eight-ounce glasses) a day and increase your intake when you exercise. Take a few sips every 15 minutes.
- Don’t lie on your back after about 12 weeks because this can interfere with your circulation as the heavy uterus presses against your blood vessels.
- Avoid overstretching. The hormone relaxin loosens your ligaments and softens your joints, making you more prone to injury. Take each stretch gently and avoid overextending.
- Talk to your doctor or midwife, who will give you personal advice about exercise and answer any particular questions you might have.
- Know when to stop – you should stop immediately if you feel light-headed, dizzy or short of breath. If you have vaginal bleeding or if you feel any pains or contractions in your abdomen, stop and seek medical attention.
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