Since stretching is probably what you will likely be able to do on the stricter forms of bed rest, you should look at stretching as a good form of stress relief and physical exercise. The key to getting the most out of your stretch routines will be doing them only to the point of comfort. You wish to do all of the movement on your exhale. Remember to adjust the number of repetitions downward if you find yourself getting tired.
Some of these stretches require you to be seated, whereas others can be done while lying down in bed. For an extra position, try some of these while in the bathtub. It's your own mini-version of water exercise. The benefit? You have slight added resistance from the water in the tub.
If your doctor, midwife, or physical therapist agrees, try using very light weights draped over your ankles or wrists while doing some of the exercises. You can fill a large tube sock with a pound of rice and allow half the sock to hang on either side. Your goal is not to apply a huge amount of weight, but to have some form of resistance.
Without changing the position of your body, try to exaggerate a shrug upward with your shoulders, bringing them to your ears. Hold this position for five to ten seconds. Then relax your shoulders back to their beginning position. Move your shoulders in small circles forward for ten repetitions, and then reverse and go backward for ten repetitions.
Seated Leg Lifts
Sit on the edge of your bed. Allow both of your feet to hang over the side. It is not necessary that your legs touch the ground. Drape the sock weight over your right ankle. Slowly raise the right leg as you exhale (see FIGURE 11-1). Do not bring your leg up to the point of pain, and it should not be raised higher than knee level. Slowly lower your leg. Repeat this for a count of ten repetitions on each leg.
If you are on a stricter form of bed rest, these exercises may not be appropriate for you. Standing can increase the pressure on your cervix. If the reason you are on bed rest is to decrease that pressure, you will most likely not be able to use the standing or even some of the seated exercises.
Middle Chest Stretch
With your feet about shoulder-width apart, place your hands on your lower back, just above your buttocks. Slowly begin to stretch backward as you try to pull your shoulder blades and elbows together. Hold this pose for about five to ten seconds. Repeat the stretch up to ten times. Be sure to keep your chin level and your head facing forward. Always tuck in your abdominal muscles.
With your hands on your hips and your feet shoulder-width apart, point your toes forward (see FIGURE 7-3). Step backward with your right foot. The step length should be comfortable and yet a stretch. Ensuring your posture is aligned properly, lean forward, making sure your knee does not extend over your foot (see FIGURE 7-4). This stretch will be felt in the calf of your rear leg. Do ten of these repetitions and then repeat on the opposite side.
If you find yourself in need of some stability while you do any of these exercises, always use some form of support — use a chair placed to one side to hang on to, or even the wall in front of you. It is important to remember about the balance issue during pregnancy.
Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart, pelvis tucked in and abdominals held tightly. Spread your arms to each side, at shoulder level (see FIGURE 6-3). Slowly curl your back forward, while bringing your arms forward as well. Allow your head to go forward slowly with this motion but try to keep the tension from your neck (see FIGURE 6-4). As you return to a standing pose, spread your arms back to your side and feel the stretch in your chest. To ensure you feel this stretch, pull your shoulder blades together behind your back. Repeat this for ten repetitions.
Stand with your feet about hip-distance apart, with your left hand on the left hip. Reach your opposite arm slowly up over your head. To prevent balance problems, try to keep your arm slightly forward of your body. If you still have trouble with balance, step forward slightly with your right foot. Do up to ten repetitions on each side.
With your feet hip-width apart, let your arms hang by your sides. Hold your head up and imagine your spine lengthening. Slowly bend from your waist to the right side of your body. You can hold your right arm slightly away from your body or you can slide that arm down your leg (see FIGURE 6-5). Your left arm can be held away from your body to help you balance if you need it. This will help prevent you from leaning back, which can cause backache as your abdomen grows. Slowly return to a standing position. Do one on each side (alternating) for a total of twenty repetitions.
Upper Back Stretch
Sit on the birth ball with your feet facing forward in front of you. Lift your arms above your head, palms facing forward. Extend your upper back, one vertebra at a time (see FIGURE 6-6). As you feel your spine lengthen, you will be stretching your upper back. Now relax one arm to the side, and do each arm singly. Repeat ten times on each side and finish with both arms stretching again.