Postnatal A-Z: R for Relaxin
In today's Postnatal A-Z I was tempted to just write Rest for the letter R as that is what I think we should all be doing in this heat! 😀 But, I will talk about the importance of rest tomorrow as part of S for Sleep.
Today I will mention the other R word which is Relaxin. This is an amazing hormone that prepares a woman's body for child birth. During the first trimester there is a surge of relaxin which helps implantation and growth of the placenta.
Towards the end of pregnancy, as labour begins, relaxin is what helps to relax the ligaments in the pelvis to allow it to stretch as the baby arrives. Relaxin levels will drop after child birth, however it takes time for all the hormone levels to re-adjust. Relaxin will also remain for as long as a mum breastfeeds.
Why is it useful for pregnant women and new mums to be aware of relaxin? From an exercise point of view, it's important for two reasons:
1) Looser ligaments (not just in the pelvis but throughout the body) mean that greater care should be taken when doing high-impact exercise to avoid the risk of injury as the joints are less supported. This is also why we don't recommend starting any new high-impact exercise regime during the first trimester due to that surge. It is also why we don't recommend doing high-impact exercise in the early postnatal period;
2) Looser ligaments mean that your body will be more flexible than normal which could also lead to injury if you overstretch. This is why we take more compact stretches ie avoiding end of range, and hold them for shorter periods (8-12 seconds).
Exercising while pregnant and postnatally has so many health benefits so don't let relaxin put you off. This post is simply designed to educate you so that you have the chance to tweak your exercise programme if need be to keep you strong, healthy and safe. ❤️