Childbirth at Home: A Labor of Love Logo

Prenatal Exercise Tips
by Estelle J. Underwood, Certified Fitness Counselor

The benefits of prenatal exercise include improved level of physical conditioning creating strength, flexibility and stamina during the pregnancy term, labor and delivery, and the postnatal recovery period.


  1. exercise illustrationAs the uterus and abdomen increase in size, lordotic posture often occurs (back sways). Moms should concentrate on strengthening abdominal muscles, buttocks and quadriceps, and stretching the low back and hip flexor muscles. An ideal way to work the abdominals during pregnancy is in a supine, inclined position on a large exercise ball. (See illustration) Modified crunches and pelvic tilts can be done in a more upright position, keeping weight off the Inferior Vena Cava which typically is compressed when in a flat position. The back muscles also benefit from these exercises by increasing strength and flexibility.

    Buttock and quadricep muscles can be simultaneously strengthened in a modified squat exercise done at the wall against the ball.exercise illustration (See illustration) Keep knee flexion minimal during squat as connective tissue surrounding the joints becomes much softer due to hormonal increases.

    Stretching the low back during pregnancy can be done on all fours, rounding the back as the pelvis tilts under. Hip flexors are stretched in a "split stance" standing position, tilting the pelvis under until stretch begins in the hip flexor of the back leg.

  2. The extra weight of larger breasts during pregnancy tends to pull the shoulders forward, shortening pectoral muscles in the chest and overstretching and weakening the rhomboid and trapezium muscles in the back. Concentrate on stretching the chest muscles by holding a towel with both hands shoulder width apart and pushing the towel back overhead with extended arms. Then strengthen the back muscles by using low weights and rowing the arms back, contracting the shoulder blades together.

  3. Edema associated with pregnancy can cause swelling in the wrists resulting in compression of the median nerve. Symptoms include numbness and tingling when the wrists are in a flexed position, so avoid exercises which place the wrists in this position. Do not use rubber tubing for the upper body strengthening due to the tendency to 'break" the wrist alignment.


Questions? Comments? E-mail: