I went into labor with my daughter for the first time at 24 weeks pregnant. By 27 weeks, my OB placed me on complete bedrest to help keep my preterm labor under control.
For over two months, I was confined to my bed and allowed to get up only to shower and use the restroom.
Two months is more than enough time for your muscles to begin to lose strength and for flexibility to diminish.
By doing the following gentle stretches and light exercises suggested by my OB, I was able to maintain some strength and flexibility so that I could properly care for my daughter once she made her arrival.
Be sure to speak with your healthcare provider before doing any exercise while on bedrest during pregnancy.
1. Stretching and Loosening
Prop some pillows against your headboard and do some gentle head circles, shoulder rolls, and ankle circles to warm up your muscles and loosen your joints.
2. Isometric Exercises
Isometrics are great for maintaining good circulation.
Simply tighten and relax major muscles, including biceps, triceps, shoulders, chest, back, buttocks, legs, and abdominals. Be sure to breathe through each exercise. Aim for slow, measured breathing.
3. Modified Push Ups
Sit facing the wall, with your hands at shoulder height and shoulder-distance apart on the wall.
Inhale as you lower your chest to the wall and then exhale as you push away.
By moving your hands closer, then further, from one another, you can effectively work different muscles in your arms, chest, and back.
4. Kegel Exercises
Kegels are important for strengthening the pelvic floor, which will be important during and after labor.
Simply tighten the muscle that cuts off urine flow for 3 seconds (eventually working up to 10 seconds), then release and relax for three seconds and repeat.
Aim for 20 to 50 Kegels per day.
5. Pelvic Tilts
Pelvic tilts not only tone the pelvic floor, abdominals, and back muscles, they’re great for relieving tension in your back and helping to keep back pain at bay.
While lying on your back* with knees bent and feet flat on the bed, exhale and slowly tilt your pelvis upward.
Tighten your abdominals while squeezing your gluteal muscles together (be sure to keep the small of your back pressed gently against the bed).
Hold for a count of five and inhale as you release back down to the bed.
Repeat 8-10 times.
6. Leg Slides
While lying on your back, simply inhale and slowly slide one heel up the bed while your pelvis is tilted.
Hold for a second or two, then exhale and slowly lower the leg back down to the bed.
Repeat on the other side, for a total of 10-12 on each side.
Leg slides can be added to pelvic tilts, but remember, when doing pelvic tilts, do not arch your back.
7. Leg Raises
Leg raises can be done to the front, side, and back to help to strengthen your lower body.
Aim for 10-15 on each side.
Remember to keep your abdominals tight when doing leg raises to avoid straining your lower back.
With your doctor’s approval, you could add ankle weights for added resistance.
The benefits to exercise during pregnancy are numerous and being on bedrest doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t stay fit.
*The American Pregnancy Association advises pregnant woman to avoid lying flat on their back for extended periods of time, so be sure to mix these exercises up.