Got back ache or pelvic girdle pain? Maybe your feet are swollen or your calf muscles are full of cramp? Whatever the ache or ailment, Jessica Ennis-Hill has a pregnancy exercise to help…
We can’t hide the fact that aches and cramps are a perfectly normal side-effect of pregnancy, but we can provide you with pregnancy exercises that can potentially ease and relieve them. Here are five common pregnancy aches, plus the exercises that will help – and you can find more like this on Jessica Ennis-Hill's Jennis Pregnancy YouTube channel.
Leg cramps, particularly in the calf, are very common in pregnancy, especially at night during the second and third trimesters
Calf cramp stretches
Leg cramps, particularly in the calf, are very common in pregnancy, especially at night during the second and third trimesters. They happen when one of your muscles suddenly contracts and spasms – and, yep, leg cramps are as sore as they sound.
It’s thought that several factors can play a part, including the weight of your bump on your muscles and pressure on blood vessels and hormones. “Leg cramps used to wake me up all the time in the night, particularly with my second pregnancy,” says Jess Ennis-Hill. “Your calves just get so tight, obviously because of the added weight you’re carrying around, so here’s a good exercise I used to like to do to help that.”
Swollen feet and legs
Long day? Fluid retention that comes on gradually in your feet and legs, particularly in the later trimesters, is completely normal in pregnancy –but that doesn’t make it feel any less uncomfortable.
There are exercises that can help, including this foot-pumping technique, demonstrated by Jess. “This will help the blood circulate through your legs and feet and helps to get the blood moving through that area, relieving any fluid retention. You can also use a Theraband if you want to add some extra resistance,” says Jess.
Please note: you should watch out for a sudden increase in swelling in your feet, face or hands, as it can be a sign of a serious pregnancy condition called pre-eclampsia. Other signs include a severe headache, pain just below your ribs, problems with your vision, and vomiting. If you notice these symptoms, urgently call your midwife, GP surgery or labour ward.
Lower back pain
This type of pain is very common in pregnancy, affecting two thirds of pregnant women. In the first trimester, in particular, lower back pain can be caused by relaxation of the muscles and ligaments around the pelvis, while in later trimesters, it can be triggered by the weight of the uterus, plus changes to your abdominal muscles.
“Like most pregnant women, I had a lot of lower back pain,” says Jess. “You feel as though you don’t have the flexibility in your back that you had before, so this exercise really helps.”
Pelvic girdle pain
Previously known as symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD), pelvic girdle pain is a common condition caused by the pelvic joints moving unevenly, and affecting one in five women during pregnancy.
While it’s completely safe for your baby, you are likely to feel pain in the pubic area, lower back, hips, thighs and knees, especially when walking, turning in bed, or climbing up or down stairs. You may also notice clicking and grinding in the pelvic area. This exercise should help, but you should speak to your midwife or GP if the pain persists, who can refer you to a physiotherapist and suggest ways to support you.
Inner thigh stretch
The inner thigh is another part of the body where, like Jess, you may feel soreness and tightness in pregnancy. On the other hand, if you experience burning or shooting pain down your inner thigh, speak to your GP or midwife – this could be a sign of pelvic girdle pain.