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PREGNANCY & MOTHERHOOD: ARE YOU TAKING ENOUGH TIME TO RELAX?

This blog was originally written by Gina as a guest blog for The Guild of Pregnancy and Postnatal Exercise Instructors. You can access the original post here: http://postnatalexercise.co.uk/are-you-taking-enough-time-to-relax/


When we talk about “looking after our bodies” during pregnancy and after childbirth you might think about what you are eating, or how much exercise you are getting, but are you also considering the importance of relaxation?

In today’s fast paced society, relaxation is often thought of as a luxury. But it is an important part of our wellbeing. Emotional stress has been shown to affect memory, cognition, our immune system, our cardiovascular system, and our gastrointestinal function.(1) Physical stress can cause tension in the body, leading to discomfort or even pain. Relaxation can help to decrease the mental and physical effects of stress. In pregnancy and motherhood in particular, it is important that we allow our bodies sufficient opportunity to relax.

In Pregnancy: During the course of your pregnancy you will probably experience a range of emotions. Whilst pregnancy is often a happy and exciting time, it is quite common to also feel some degree of stress, anxiety or overwhelm. A study in the US reported that as many of 84% of women reported some degree of psychosocial stress during their pregnancy. (2)

As your baby grows the changes to your body, such as increasing weight of the uterus and changes to your body shape, place extra strain on joints and muscles as they compensate for these changes. (3) Certain muscles can become over worked and oversensitised, and this can result in tightness, discomfort or pain for some people. (4)

In Motherhood: After childbirth, the body’s restoration takes time. Yet almost immediately physical demands are placed on new Mums, such as lifting, carrying, nursing and sleepless nights. Emotional stress can feature heavily at this time as you adapt to the new responsibilities of motherhood. It is perhaps not surprising, therefore, that you may find yourself holding a lot of tension in your body, particularly your back, abdomen and pelvic floor. The anxieties of being a new Mum can leave our bodies in an almost constant fight or flight response state. Relaxation techniques can help to signal the parasympathetic nervous system to calm the body down and return to our “rest and digest” state of being.

RELAXATION TECHNIQUES TO HELP YOU MOVE AND FEEL WELL.

Relaxation doesn’t always require a huge investment of time or money. I’m going to focus on some simple things that you can easily fit in to your everyday activities at home to help release tension and promote relaxation.

1) Breathe well

“Above all, learn to breathe correctly”.

Joseph Pilates

Slow, deep breathing has been shown to trigger a relaxation response in the body, and to benefit mental and physical health.5 Taking a few minu