Exercise to ease those pregnancy aches and pains


Regular exercise is important for all women. In pregnancy, exercise heals a woman by strengthening her body, relieving her tension, improving circulation and contributing to a feeling of well-being and balance. Some common aches and pains that are felt during pregnancy and that can be relieved with exercise include:


The changes in your body during pregnancy cause a shift in the centre of gravity, affecting your posture. The expanding belly pulls the abdomen forward, causing the spine to assume a greater curve than normal. The abdominal muscles elongate and stretch up to 20cm to accommodate the expanding uterus. The recti muscles separate down the middle, and the back ends up picking up the slack, causing more strain.

What to do:

  • Get onto all fours with your back as flat as possible.
  • Visualise pulling the pubic bone towards you. As you pull in on the abdominal muscles, exhale and press your spine up towards the ceiling.
  • Hold for a few seconds and then slowly release. Avoid letting your back sag as you return to the starting position.
  • Do this whenever you feel strain in your lower back. This stretch will also help relieve mid-back stress and can be done at home and at the office.

A weak pelvic floor

A weak pelvic floor also contributes to backache.

What to do:

  • Do your Kegel exercises daily.
  • Squeeze the muscles of the vagina strongly and tightly (as if you were trying to stop your flow of urine) for eight seconds, then slowly release.
  • Do repetitions of ten at least four times a day.

For tight inner thighs and hamstrings

What to do:

  • Sit with legs apart, and bend one leg to place the heel of that foot at the groin area.
  • As you exhale, stretch to one side, reaching for the calf of the extended leg with one hand while the other arm is raised above your head to avoid overcrowding of the uterus.
  • Hold for eight seconds and then repeat four times. Do this on the other side.


Cramps usually affect the legs, feet and toes and often strike during the night. No one is sure why cramps occur in pregnancy. Lack of magnesium and poor blood supply to the affected area may be a cause for this uncomfortable, sometimes painful complaint.

What to do:

  • Stand with your bare feet on a cold floor. Pull your toes up towards your ankle (flex your foot) to relieve a cramp in your calf.
  • Ask your partner to gently rub the affected muscle, but not while it is in cramp. Walking will help your circulation.
  • Calcium and magnesium supplements may help. Explore homeopathic options.
  • Bananas are the best natural source of magnesium.
  • Soaking in a warm bath before bedtime and adding a quarter of a teaspoon of arnica oil to your bath may prevent cramps.


You now need to inhale more oxygen and exhale more carbon dioxide than you did before you were pregnant. Also, your growing baby is pushing your abdominal organs up towards your chest, and your lungs have disappeared under your armpits. In late pregnancy your ribs are stretched outward in order to make room for your diaphragm and abdominal organs, and normally they would expand outward to allow more oxygen into your body.

What to do:

  • Sitting deep breath – this will increase lung capacity and reduce tension and fatigue.
  • Sit with your legs comfortably crossed in front of you. Do not cross your ankles– make sure you keep one foot in front of the other.
  • Clasp your hands and place them under your chin, keeping your elbows pointed downward. Inhale slowly, bringing your elbows up to ear height or higher. Exhale slowly, extending your head back as far as possible.
  • Inhale bringing your head forward.
  • Exhale as you bring your elbows back down to the starting position.


Pregnancy may curb your headaches or exacerbate them. Although hormones play a role in headaches, they are not the only factors responsible. There are other causes. Stress is a major culprit. Your work or your environment may cause stress or a physical problem such as tired, sore shoulders or back strain. Bad posture is a big culprit. Eye strain and ear strain (loud or constant noise) can also bring on a headache, as can lack of sleep or constant worry.

What to do: 

  • Exercise that involves stretching is very beneficial. Stretch your neck slowly forward and back and from side to side, pausing and holding each position for at least eight seconds.
  • Learn how to relax. Practise the relaxation techniques you will learn in your childbirth classes. Listen to music that makes you feel chilled and at ease.
  • Be aware of and correct bad postural habits. Examine any physical sources of stress and strain causing muscular tension. For example, when you are driving, place a small support pillow inthe small of your back and do not drop your shoulders too low or lift them too high (close to your ears). Remember to unclench your jaw. That can cause major tension of the face and neck as well. 
  • Massage is a wonderful stress reliever. The touch of a loved one provides much comfort and warmth, and that alone can make a difference to how you feel.
  • A warm (not hot) bath with a little aromatherapy oil (a few drops of peppermint, neroli, chamomile, rosemary or grapefruit oil) may ease your throbbing head and aching body.

Varicose veins

Whether or not you have a history of varicosities in your family, you are more likely to develop veins during your pregnancy than at any other time. The added weight of pregnancy plus the increase of volume of fluid in your bloodstream forces the valves to work harder to keep the blood flowing smoothly.

What to do:

  • It is important that you put your feet up as often as you can during the day and avoid standing for long periods of time.
  • Elevate your legs above the level of your heart. Move about frequently and try and take a brisk walk when you can during the day. Activities and exercise such as walking and swimming work wonders. Stationary cycling will increase the circulation in the legs. There are homeopathic preparations that may help such as Varicose Plus ointment, Hemorrho No 2 and Calc Fluor tissue.


Swelling is a normal part of pregnancy. Even though a certain amount of fluid retention is necessary, too much can become uncomfortable and could lead to certain health problems. For most women, swelling is more noticeable in the legs, especially around the ankles.

What to do:

  • Exercise – walk, swim or ride a stationary bike three to four times a week. This will improve your sluggish circulation. Foot circling will also ease discomfort and increase circulation.
  • Raise your legs and hips on pillows as often as you can during the day, and hold this position for about 15 to 20 minutes so that gravity can do its job.
  • Place your feet in cool water after a long day.
  • Sucking one table each of Nat Mur and Nat Sulph tissue salts every four hours helps to distribute body fluids evenly.

Carpal tunnel syndrome

During the latter part of your pregnancy you may become aware of a strange numbness or tingling sensation in your fingers. This condition, which is sometimes accompanied by stiffness in the finger joints, is called carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). CTS can be brought on by any increased pressure within the carpal tunnel. During pregnancy, increased pressure within the carpal tunnel fluid (due to the pregnancy hormones causing fluid retention) can cause the feelings of numbness and discomfort or pain.

What to do:

  • Raise the affected hand above your head for a few minutes while you wiggle your fingers and slowly rotate your wrist. Then extend your arm directly in front of you, and place your hand in such a way that it looks as if you are showing a sign to stop. Pull back and stretch the fingers of the affected hand with the fingers of the other hand.
  • Move fingers vigorously in luke warm water first thing in the morning.
  • Massage the fingers with arnica oil to relieve stiffness and improve circulation.
  • Increased calcium intake may help.

Which exercises helped you ease aches and pains during your pregnancy? Send your tips to chatback@parent24.com and we may share them with our readers.

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