pre and postnatal stretches
Image: Courtesy of Andrea Marcellus

Here Are Great Postpartum Exercises and Stretches for Healthy Moms

From cat backs to counter leg lifts.

When you’re a new mom, everything can become exhausting, including getting in some healthy exercise and stretching. There’s a lot to do in someone with a new child’s life, but we’ve come together with an amazing fitness expert to give you quick ones to get in. Pre and postnatal workouts mean taking into consideration a new and changing body. Whether a prenatal or a new mama, you can safely and effectively perform workout moves and stretches at home confidently. We interviewed Andrea Marcellus, fitness expert, life app creator, and mom, about her favorite pre and postpartum exercises to do to stay healthy. She also helped us with some stretches that can help you feel better. Andrea has worked with several celebrity moms and specializes in perinatal workouts. Please let me know if I can connect you or share any tips for a story. If you want to learn about these exercises, keep reading for more!
Pregnancy Spa Sydney
Image: Courtesy of @brigitalea

3 Great Pre and Postpartum Exercise Move Adaptations

1) Standing Criss-Cross

Normally done lying down for high-intensity core activation, this classic pilates exercise provides gentle core activation beneficial for both pregnant and postpartum women. Stand with feet a bit wider than hip-width apart, hands loosely behind the head, and lowest abdominals (that’s all you’ll be able to feel beyond a certain point in your pregnancy) gently engaged. Bring your left knee to your navel as you lower your right elbow toward your midline. Do not “crunch” to make them touch; just move them toward each other and back, then repeat on the other side.  Do ten sets.

2) Counter Leg Lifts

Rather than lying on your side on the floor, use leg lifts to help prepare your core for speedy delivery and recovery by standing at your counter. Stand tall with feet hip-width apart using a counter for balance only as necessary. With your knees softly unlocked and abs gently engaged, slowly lift your right leg on an inhale while keeping the knee pointed toward the counter and your foot flexed to stretch your calf. Pause at the top for three seconds and then lower down on an exhale. Repeat 10-20 times on each side.

3) Counter Push-Ups with Leg Extension

Believe it or not, activating your pectoral (chest), gluteal (tush), and postural muscles can help alleviate neck and lower back pain better than stretching.  Standing on your toes, hands on the edge of your counter, walk back into your deepest plank position. Lower your chest toward the counter, ensuring the elbows align with the ribcage, not the neck or shoulders. Push back up on an exhale and lift your right leg straight behind you for 3 pulses. Repeat the push-up and do three pulses behind you with the left leg. Repeat for 5-10 sets.

3 Great Pre and Postpartum Stretches Move Adaptations

The keys to stretching, especially during pregnancy and postpartum recovery, are to one: never do static stretches (just holding a position) unless you are warmed up. Moving stretches will be far more relieving and prevent over-stretching. Two, you should never overdo it. If the stretch feels deep, you will likely overdo it and increase your discomfort. The better choice is to move into a position until you feel a gentle sensation and stop there. Opt for more time to release over more intensity for a stretch.  

1) Cat Back

On all fours, arch your back to the ceiling to keep your shoulders away from your ears and your neck released. Hold your stillness for a moment and then exhale to a neutral spine. For a mentally empowering effect, allow your breath to dictate each inhale and use the stillness to practice calm rather than panic during the discomfort. Repeat ten times.

2) Seated Side Bends

Sit crisscross on a yoga block or a stack of pillows to allow the hips to release. Place your right hand on the floor beside you while raising your left hand to the ceiling on an inhale. Making as much space between your left bottom rib and hip as possible, slowly bend toward your right hand on an exhale, allowing your right elbow to bend to keep your shoulder released. Repeat on the other side. Do five sets.

3) Energizing Neck & Hip Release

This game-changer of a stretch truly does it all. Sit tall in a chair with your right ankle across your left knee and your hands on the chair seat behind you, fingertips facing forward. On an inhale, gently push your hands down as you pull your chest forward. Hold still for three seconds, careful to keep your chin down and your neck straight, then release on an exhale. Let your body tell you when to inhale and repeat the movement. Repeat 3-5 times, then switch legs.

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