Are you looking for safe postnatal stretches that you could do in the comfort of your home?
I have got you covered.
In this post, you will learn:
- what type of stretches are safe to do in the postpartum period,
- 3 stretches you should avoid, and
- 17 of my favorite stretches you can try today!
Let’s get started.
Can I stretch after giving birth?
Yes, you can stretch after giving birth, but it is important that you start slow and avoid going to your absolute full range of motion when starting out.
That’s because your body still has the hormone relaxin circulating in your bloodstream in the early postpartum period. This hormone is responsible for increasing the range of motion of your muscles, tendons, and joints normally seen throughout pregnancy.
If you are too aggressive with stretching beyond your normal range of motion, you can risk injuring your joints/muscles.
With that said, stretching is a great way to get active in the postpartum period if you are new to exercising.
As always, make sure to speak with your healthcare provider to get clearance before doing any type of exercise activity.
What should you not do after giving birth?
After giving birth it is important you avoid any type of movement or exercise that stretches your abdominal muscles or requires a significant amount of core strength.
This is because your core muscles are in the process of coming back together after being separated and weakened for the past ~39 weeks.
The last thing you want to do is cause further stretching and weakening of these muscles.
Exercises you want to avoid include:
- Full planks
And here are some stretches to avoid in the early postpartum:
- Downward dog
- Upward dog
With that out of the way, let’s go over some stretches you can do after giving birth.
17 Gentle Postnatal Stretches for New Moms
There are several muscle groups you should stretch postnatally.
Specifically, you should target:
- The neck
- The chest/shoulders
- The hip flexors
- The lower back
- The quadriceps
Why these muscle groups?
Because these are the areas that get really tight during pregnancy!
These are also the same muscle groups that cause you to develop bad posture- like rounded shoulders, forward head posture, and lordosis.
I go over all of these bad postpartum postures in more details here.
- Choose 1-2 stretches from each category and do them three times a week.
- Try to hold each stretch for at least 15 seconds, and ultimately work your way up to 60 seconds as you get stronger.
- If any of these stretches causes any amount of pain or discomfort, STOP immediately.
OK, now let’s get to the stretches.
Lateral Neck Stretch
The lateral neck stretch is an easy way to stretch the muscles along the side of your neck as well as the trapezius muscles.
Try to bring your ear down to your shoulder, and focus on actively reaching down toward the floor with your other hand.
Chin To Chest
The chin to chest stretch is a great way to stretch the neck extensors and improve your posture.
When doing this stretch, focus on creating a double chin and try to make contact between your chin and chest.
Wall Chest Opener Stretch
The wall chest stretch is a great way to open up your chest and stretch your shoulders- two muscle groups that often get tight from hunching over and breastfeeding.
Try to find a corner in your home to perform this stretch as it will really benefit you. You could even do it inside a door frame.
Thread The Needle
This is one of my favorite stretches to target the posterior shoulder and upper back.
It feels so good!
Do your best to reach laterally as much as you can with the arm in contact with the ground.
Banded Pull Apart Holds
The banded pull apart hold is a great way to stretch the anterior shoulder and chest muscles – but it does require the use of a resistance band.
If you don’t have one – you can get this set on Amazon here.
Give it a try and let me know how you like it.
Postpartum Hip Stretches
Knee To Chest Stretch (1 at a time)
The knee to chest stretch is a great way to stretch each hip individually and improve lordosis.
Ideally, you should contract the butt muscles of the leg on the floor to fully stretch your hips.
The 90/90 stretch is a fun position to get into that will help loosen your hip joints. It improves both hip abduction and hip external rotation.
If you lean forward, you will feel an even deeper stretch. Just make sure your spinal alignment does not change.
The Supine Butterfly
The supine butterfly stretch is a great way to open up your hips from a safe and comfortable position.
Try to keep your pelvis posteriorly tilted (aka your low back flat against the floor).
As you become more flexible you will notice your knees will begin to make contact with the floor.
Lower Back Stretches
The pelvic tilt is a great way to stretch the low back while engaging your deep transverse abdominal core muscles.
Cat To Cow Stretch
The cat to cow stretch is one of my favorite ways to improve the mobility and fluidity of the spine. It will stretch your low back and upper back from a quadruped position.
Give it a try, it feels so good!
Quadricep (Leg) Stretches
Side-lying Quad Stretch
The side-lying quad stretch is an easy and effective way to stretch the quadriceps (anterior legs) individually.
Make sure to find a yoga mat or pillow to lean on, and keep your butt muscles squeezed of the leg you are stretching.
Standing Quad Stretch
The standing quad stretch is another great way to stretch the quad individually.
This exercise will challenge your balance and your core positioning – so start slow and try to achieve the position below.
Try to maintain a neutral low back, and your knees aligned together.
The couch stretch can be difficult and uncomfortable as it is a very deep stretch of the upper quadriceps and hip flexors.
You can place your back foot on a couch, a chair, or simply up against a wall.
To lessen the stretch lean forward but do not bend your spine.
The deep squat is one of the best stretches ever, as it helps open up every muscle group in your hips.
If you can’t get into this position, use a chair or bench to lean on.
Bonus: Glute Stretches
I also want to throw in a few more stretches to target the posterior hip – aka the glutes. The butt muscles tend to get weak and immobile during pregnancy.
These stretches below will help start activating them again.
Seated Figure Four Glute Stretch
The seated figure four glute stretch is a great way to stretch the glutes in a safe position.
Try to achieve a perfect 90 degree angle at the knee joint.
You can push down on your bent knee to really deepen the stretch.
The pigeon stretch is another deep stretch that really targets your glutes in an isolated fashion. This movement is much more advanced. Take your time and do it slowly.
Lean forward for a more deeper stretch but don’t let your spinal alignment change.
Supine Posterior Hip Stretch
The supine posterior hip stretch is another great movement to target the glutes and hips.
You can scale this exercise and make it easier or more challenging based on how much you pull your leg in.
What About Postpartum Stretches for C-Section Moms?
After a c-section, it is important that you avoid any exercise or stretch that places high amounts of tension on the muscles of your core.
As you could imagine, multiple layers of tissue are cut to get your baby out of your uterus.
These deep tissues typically need 6-12 weeks of recovery before you do any type of strenuous activity.
You can try any of the 17 stretches above, but as always – If any of these stretches cause any amount of pain or discomfort, STOP immediately.
Is it okay to do postnatal yoga?
Yes, it is okay to do postnatal yoga, but it is important you avoid poses that require a lot of core strength.
- Boat pose
- Downward dog
- Upward dog
If you have never done yoga before, make sure you take it slow and stay hydrated.
Click here to learn more about Yoga in the Postpartum Period.
Other Related Questions
Do you really have to wait 6 weeks to exercise after birth?
Yes, generally it is recommended that you wait at least 4-6 weeks after giving birth to exercise.
This is to give your body the time it needs to heal and recover.
As you could imagine, every one is different.
You might be ready sooner. Or you might not be.
The most important thing, however, is to speak with your doctor to ensure there are no contraindications to you working out immediately postpartum.
What exercises can I do immediately after birth?
If you are cleared by your doctor, you can perform any of the following exercises immediately after birth.
- box squats
- high wall sits
- wall push ups
- posterior pelvic tilts
I recommend you start by walking. Walking is one of the best exercises you could do in the immediate postpartum period, as it will get your blood circulating and your muscles active.
To learn more about immediate postpartum exercise check out my post on: How to Exercise Before 6 weeks postpartum.
Postpartum hip pain exercises
Postpartum hip pain can be due to instability and increased mobility of the sacroiliac or SI joint or the pubic symphysis.
As I mentioned above, while you were pregnant, your body released a hormone called relaxin. This helped relax your pelvic bones so that you could deliver your baby vaginally.
If you have hip pain you should ALWAYS see a healthcare provider to get a diagnosis. If you are diagnosed with SI joint pain or pubic symphysis dysfunction – check out these posts.
While they are geared towards pregnancy, you can also use these tips postpartum.
Can I do squats after giving birth?
Yes, you can do squats after birth, however you need to make sure you are cleared by your doctor first.
To perform your first postpartum squat, you may find that you will need to modify the exercise a bit.
You may not be as mobile and you may not be as strong.
That is okay!
Start slow and work your way up.
It should also go without saying that you shouldn’t add any weight to your squats at this time.
Final words on Postpartum Stretching
So there you have a list of 17 stretches you could perform in the postpartum period.
Stretching is a great way to get active postpartum and one that I highly recommend.
Now I want to hear from you.
What is your favorite postpartum stretch?
Comment below and let me know!
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Brittany Robles, MD, MPH, CPT
Brittany Robles is a full-time OBGYN physician, a NASM certified trainer, and a prenatal and postnatal fitness specialist. She holds a Master of Public Health degree in maternal health with a special interest in exercise and nutrition. She is also the co-author of The White Coat Trainer. Learn more about her here.
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