Partner stretches to ease you through pregnancy
Your partner may not be able to participate in all of the joys of your pregnancy, but he can get involved in more than just attending doctor’s appointments. By helping you to stretch and strengthen your body using the following exercises, he’ll help to make your pregnancy more comfortable and prepare your body for delivery. He’ll also become familiar with the kinds of physical support you’ll need during labor. “The exercises give [fathers] a role for the whole pregnancy, and they realize they’re not just needed during labor,” says Lauri J. Reimer, a pre- and postnatal exercise specialist with Sports Club/LA in Los Angeles. Do the following sequence of exercises barefoot. Do all three moves, designed by Reimer, at least three times a week, every day whenever possible. If your partner is unable to do these stretches with you, ask a friend to help.
1. Pregnancy squat Stand facing your partner, feet wide enough to accommodate your belly, toes and knees pointed slightly outward. Hold each other’s forearms (A). Slowly squat, lowering buttocks toward floor, heels flat; don’t let knees move past toes (B). Hold the squat for 30 seconds, working up to 90 seconds. While squatting, do as many Kegels as you can in 30 seconds, including both slow and fast reps (see “Training Tips” on page 46). Return to standing position. (If you have trouble standing up, lower one knee to the floor and have your partner support you as you stand.) Strengthens the lower-body muscles; during labor, allows gravity to help move the baby down the birth canal.
2. Seated partner straddle Sit on the floor facing your partner, legs open in a V, separated a comfortable distance apart. Have your partner position his feet so they’re pressing against the insides of your lower legs, helping you to stretch your inner thighs; avoid slouching. Extend your arms in front of you, holding each other’s wrists (A). While exhaling, slowly rock forward from the hips. As you come forward, lean only to a comfortable position without overstretching or hunching over (B). Then slowly rock back while inhaling, moving in a gentle, rhythmic motion. As you lean back, allow your partner to support your body weight. (If you feel pulling in the inner thighs, you are stretching too far.) Do 5–8 repetitions, slowly counting to 4 as you move in each direction. Stretches the hips, back and pelvis; strengthens the abdominals.
3. Back and chest stretch Sit back-to-back with your partner, legs crossed comfortably, arms relaxed by your sides. Sit erect; then inhale for 4 counts as you slowly lean back, leaning your upper torso against your partner’s back. Exhale to a count of 8 while your partner rounds his torso forward; let him support your body weight as you relax your arms, shoulders and chest (A). Hold this position for 4 counts; then inhale and return to starting position. Next, let your partner lean back against you to a count of 4. Then round your torso forward, exhaling to a count of 8. Lean forward only as far as is comfortable without putting strain on your back or belly (B). Hold for 4 counts; then inhale and return to starting position. Repeat the whole series 4 times in each direction. Stretches and strengthens the back and abdominal muscles; promotes balance by working both muscle groups simultaneously.