8 easy exercises to prepare for labour

There are many things to prepare for when planning for a new baby but you mustn’t forget the actual labor and delivery. Did you know that you can do some pretty easy exercises to prepare for labor and delivery? Getting your baby into an optimal birthing position and preparing your pelvis for labor are important steps to having a good labor.

Ideally you should start doing prenatal exercises as soon as you find out you are pregnant. We offer two pregnancy exercise classes per week in our gym, or your physio can write you a program to do at home. Exercise is recommended for almost every woman in pregnancy, and there are very few medical conditions that mean that she mustn’t exercise. We refer to the ACOG Guidelines of 2015 and the BJSM papers of 2016 on pregnancy and exercise (and there’s more coming in 2017!). Always remember to consult with your obstetrician or midwife before starting any exercise program.

1. Walking
Walking is a great way to keep your body balanced. It is cheap, accessible and allows your brain and body to “recalibrate” to adapt to your changing shape. You can do it anywhere and don’t really need any equipment but a good pair of shoes. This is best when you can get outside and get fresh air and sunlight. What time of day would work best for you?

2. Pelvic floor exercises
Pelvic floor exercises or Kegels are the contraction of the muscles of the pelvic floor. Doing these can help strengthen the muscles that support the vagina and prevent incontinence. These muscles will weaken with the additional weight of pregnancy if you ignore these exercises, so ask your physio to check if you are doing them properly!

3. Proper sitting
Sitting properly? An exercise?? Yup. The way you sit throughout your pregnancy can affect the alignment of your pelvis and correct sitting can strengthen your core and pelvic muscles. The goal is to sit upright with pelvis slightly forward. This is easy to do with an exercise ball or sitting cross legged on the floor with a cushion under your bottom. Sitting evenly on the exercise ball will keep your pelvis aligned and baby in the optimal position. Cross legged sitting pushes the uterus forward, strengthens the legs, and opens the pelvis. You basically want to avoid reclined positions. It is especially important to practice sitting this way during your third trimester.

4. Leaning
Leaning forward on things can help the baby’s positioning as well. Think about all the time we spend leaning backward or relaxing against something. Lean on counters or people or an exercise ball!

5. Pelvic tilts
Pelvic tilts or the cat/cow stretch can be done from the initial stages of pregnancy. This helps keep the pelvis loose and lower back flexible. You can do these during the third trimester when your baby is moving to help the baby get in optimal position. They are easily done sitting on a swiss ball.

6. Butterflies
This exercise is simple to do. This will help open the pelvis and stretch the lower back. You sit on your bottom and bring your legs in with your feet touching and push down gentley on your knees with your elbows…or you can rock side to side. We avoid this exercise if you have pubic symphysis pain, however.

7. Squats

There’s no delicate way to put this. As your baby has grown, you’ve gained weight. There’s more of you to move around whilst carrying this new life, with the baby, the uterus, the placenta, your extra blood volume to feed it, the extra “breast feeding stores” on your hips and perhaps your shoulders. Squatting is a skill we need to maintain and improve on during this time of such dramatic change in body shape. We like to do our squats with a swiss ball behind our backs against a wall. The ball sits in the small of the back, feet well forward, and then we squat down as though we are sitting in a chair. The ball is supporting our low back the whole time. Try doing this one for the entire length of a favourite song, where you go up and down during the verse, and do slow pulses during the chorus each time. It’s great to do an exercise that actually feels like you are getting stronger throughout pregnancy!

8. Prenatal exercise classes
Finding a good prenatal exercise class is also a good idea. Classes help you commit to a time for yourself every week, a chance to meet other pregnant women locally and a chance to see other pregnant women to see for yourself the great range in size and shape we can be as we carry a baby. There are many yoga poses that can open the pelvis, strengthen the legs and hips, and help build endurance for the marathon of giving birth. Some great poses include child’s pose, cat /cow, yoga squats and breath control. We love to utilize the swiss ball to provide support and curves to stretch over.

If you would like more information, to join a class, or to buy a swiss ball already pumped up and ready to take home with you, please call us on 8331 0552.