Giving birth is a huge life event. Regardless of whether you are having a home birth or are planning to deliver in a hospital, there are some exercises that you can do to help prepare your body for labor and delivery.
These exercises will help:
- strengthen your muscles in your thighs
- improve your flexibility for better hip mobility
- reduce the chances of experiencing back pain during labor
- get you accustomed to pushing positions
So, if you are currently pregnant, or are planning a baby soon, be sure to add these exercises to your routine!
Deep squats are a fundamental movement that helps to prepare your body for the demands of labor and delivery. They help relax and lengthen pelvic floor muscles and improve flexibility, making it easier for your baby to descend into the birth canal. Deep squats also reduce the chances of experiencing back pain during labor, as they help to increase the space between your vertebrae.
If done with a full range of motion, you might even be able to stretch your perineum. The perineum is the area between your vagina and anus, which can help reduce the risk of tearing during delivery.
Downward Dog to Spiderman Stretches:
It is a tremendous two-for-one stretch that will help to loosen your hips and lengthen your hamstrings, calves, and ankles. The stretch will assist in preparing your body for the different pushing positions you will be trying out during labor. It is essential to avoid birth injuries like posterior or shoulder dystocia, which can occur when the baby’s head is positioned incorrectly during delivery. Resources like the Birth Injury Justice Centre can provide more information on this topic. You can also seek legal help and get support if your baby has suffered a birth injury.
Pelvic tilts are an easy and gentle way to release tension in your lower back. They also help to tone your abdominal muscles and stretch the base of your spine, which can assist in the delivery process. Pelvic tilts are recommended throughout pregnancy but are especially beneficial in the last few weeks as they can help to open up your pelvis and encourage the baby to get in a decent birthing position. It will also alleviate labor pains and bring on labor contractions when you are ready to start pushing. You can even perform pelvic tilts (while sitting or on all fours) during active labor. Start with small tilts, and then increase the range of motion as your labor progresses.
Kegel exercises are essential for all pregnant women, as they help to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. These muscles support your uterus, bladder, and rectum and are responsible for controlling your urine flow.
During pregnancy, your pelvic floor muscles stretch and weaken due to the extra weight of your growing baby. It can lead to incontinence and other problems during delivery. Kegel exercises help to prevent these issues by toning your pelvic floor muscles and improving your control over them. You can continue Kegel exercises after delivery to help your pelvic floor muscles recover. Please ensure your bladder is empty before starting the exercises.
Pushing is a fundamental (and strenuous) part of the delivery process. Depending on your situation and preference, you will likely be in various positions during pushing. Some common ones include:
- sitting on your heels
- lying on your side
- leaning forward in a chair
Each position uses different muscles and varies based on the individual’s flexibility. So, trying a few different ones is essential to see what is most comfortable for you. Many women find that they can deliver their baby more effectively in an upright position, as gravity can help the baby descend. The stretch “happy baby” is a great way to loosen your hips in preparation for different pushing positions.
Lateral Band Walks:
Changing positions repeatedly can help you to cope with the pain of labor. Walking is a great way to do this, as it can help your baby descend into the birth canal and promote better blood circulation. Lateral band walks are an excellent way to prep your hips and legs for labor. They help improve your range of motion and engage your gluteal muscles (which can become weaker during pregnancy). You can do lateral band walks anywhere, anytime. Just make sure you are using a band that is the appropriate resistance. Too much resistance can cause pain in your knees or hips. Choose a flat surface to walk on and take small, controlled steps. You can even do lateral band walks while in labor to keep your hips loose and help the baby descend.
Hip Rolls on Birthing Ball:
Hip rolls on a birthing ball are another great way to loosen your hips and prepare for labor. They help stretch your lower back and gluteal muscles and can relieve tension in your hips. To do a hip roll on a birthing ball:
- Sit on the ball with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Slowly roll your hips from side to side, going as far as you can without pain. You can also perform this while lying on your back with the ball between your legs.
- If you’re having trouble rolling the ball, try using a smaller one.
The cat-cow pose is a gentle and effective way to release tension in your back. It also helps stretch your abdominal muscles, easing pain during labor. To do the cat-cow pose, start on all fours with your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. As you exhale, allow your abdomen to drop, round your spine towards the ceiling, and tuck your chin to your chest. Arch your back and look at the ceiling while inhaling. Repeat this sequence for a few minutes.
These are just some helpful exercises you can do to prep for labor and delivery. Consult your doctor or midwife about which ones are right for you. And, always pay attention to your body. Not every pregnancy is the same. What works for one woman may not work for another. Trust your instincts and do what feels best for you. You can also enroll in a childbirth class to learn more about the different stages of labor and how to cope with the pain. Childbirth is a fantastic process, and you are capable of handling it! Just breathe, relax, and let your body do its thing.