So, you may all know that this hormone in your body begins to increase during pregnancy, but why and what role does it play. First and foremost it is responsible for allowing the full internal cavity (your hips and ribs) to expand as your baby grows, while also reducing the stability of your joints in order to allow for shifting during the birthing process.
Relaxin’s job is to relax the joints, ligaments, tendons, and muscle fibers to prepare your body for birth. It allows your body to make room for the growing baby by elevating and expanding the thoracic circumference by about 6cm, while also allowing the hips to rotate externally 8-16cm (hello incredible woman body!). After birth, Relaxin assists the body in returning the rib cage, pubic bone, hip girdle, and uterus back to the pre-pregnancy size. (Interestingly, if this is your second or third pregnancy, your levels of Relaxin are even higher than the previous).
Isn’t that one incredible little hormone… as without it we basically wouldn’t be able to grow our babies and then contract and return to normal again after giving birth. HOWEVER it does come with its precautions.
One of the biggest things women need to be aware of during pregnancy is the effect Relaxin has on our joints during exercise. It’s fabulous that it allows our hips to rotate and our tendons to stretch, but you still need to be aware of how you are exercising. This is one of the main reasons that it is not recommended that you star a new “sport/exercise” during pregnancy that your body is not accustomed to. By making your joints and ligaments less stable, Relaxin can put you at risk for getting injured.
So, while exercising during pregnancy, in our opinion is paramount, we always encourage mums to make sure they aren’t stepping too far outside their comfort zone.
Lastly, with all this Relaxin surging through your body, you may be feeling pretty limber and flexible, don’t let this false sense of flexibility lead you to overstretch. It is for this reason that in our Flourishing Fit Moms programs we add less and less stretching as one gets further along in pregnancy. Your tendons are pretty elastic as it is, however rest assured postpartum, when the Relaxin levels go down, your ligaments will start to return to their pre-pregnancy state. BUT, if your joints have been overextended throughout the pregnancy, the damage could be permanent.
It is safe to say that you most definitely still need to stretch during pregnancy, but make sure you are keeping it within a reasonable range of motion. So, it should be just to the point where you are feeling resistance for 20-30 seconds and then a nice relief thereafter.