If you had to run a long race, you would train before you got to the big day, wouldn’t you? Look at labor like a marathon, because in many ways, it is.
Training for childbirth doesn’t mean doing sit-ups, planks, and leg lifts. Labor-prep training involves strengthening your core and pelvic floor muscles. Focusing on these areas will strengthen your body to help you push more effectively during labor. More than that, labor exercises help place your baby in an optimal position for delivery.
Before you begin, consult with your obstetrician or midwife. Working out while pregnant will need a new approach, particularly in later trimesters. Once you get the green light, it’s time to start training for childbirth. Get moving, but start slowly.
Check out these 7 exercises that will help you physically prepare for your big day.
7 Tailor’s Pose
The Tailor’s pose, or the Cobbler Pose is a sitting position that helps open the pelvis, relax the joints in the hips, and ease the lower back. Just by sitting comfortably, you can also improve your posture while stretching your hips and thighs.
How to Perform the Tailor’s Pose
Sit on the floor. You can also sit on a folded towel for more comfort.
Bring the soles of your feet together.
With your hands on your ankles, pull your feet close to your body.
Press your knees down to the floor. Go as far as you can without straining.
Maintain this position for as long as it feels comfortable.
You can also sit against a wall for added support.
6 Meditation and Breathing Exercises
Meditation is a quiet and serene state of mindfulness. Think of it as a reset button for your emotions. This practice stills the body and cleanses the mind. Especially when dealing with pain, meditation has tremendous value. Instead of internalizing labor pains, meditation uses deep breathing to exhale the stress out of your body.
To practice, pay attention to your breathing while observing your surroundings. Meditation doesn’t have to occur when you are alone in a room. You can be in the moment when you sit down for a meal. You can be mindful when you brush your teeth or drive a car. By integrating mindfulness and paying attention to your breathing, you can use the contractions during labor productively.
How to Meditate
Make sure that you are comfortable. It doesn’t matter if you are walking, standing, sitting, or lying down.
Inhale and exhale deeply. Focus your attention on your breath. After a few repetitions, allow your breathing to return to normal, but still focus on your breath.
If your mind deviates, bring your thoughts back to your breath. The point is to create a connection between the mind and the body.
Begin with five minutes a day.
Whenever you need to calm the chaos around you, take a deep, and slow down. The central nervous system relaxes when you reconnect with yourself. Breathing techniques allow you to feel calmer, and happier. These methods will be invaluable during labor.
Labor and delivery will challenge your body. You’ll have to use major muscle groups to hold positions. In proper form, squats strengthen your thighs, hamstrings, abdominals, and lower back muscles.
Squats are a workout staple that engages several muscles of the body. This exercise improves circulation, posture, and opens the pelvis. It’s not just an exercise to prepare for birth; it’s also a position to give birth.
To perform a squat, spread your legs slightly wider than shoulder width, and turn your feet out. Hold your arms out in front or on the back of a chair to maintain balance and posture. Bend your knees as if you were sitting in an imaginary chair. Place the weight on your heels for balance, and do not let your knees extend past your toes. Keep your back straight, chest up, your stomach tight, and don’t forget to relax your shoulders. Inhale as you lower your body. When your thighs are parallel to the floor, exhale, lift up, and return to a standing position. Do three sets of 10.
When you are performing a squat, protect your spine by lifting and lowering yourself using your legs, not your back.
One of the easiest ways to get moving is to go for a walk. It’s amazing how a 30-minute stroll can clear your head. The fresh air is a nice change. Plus, you get to see the world while you get in shape. It’s a fit and fun combination.
The physical benefits of a walk can also prepare your body for childbirth. During labor, walking helps the cervix dilate. Before delivery, the movement of walking can help get your baby’s head in the optimal downward position.
If you feel winded, slow down. Keep the walks short, and don’t walk too fast. Always listen to your body. Walking is an exercise you can do right up until your due date.
3 Pelvic Tilts
Your pelvic area is located between your hips. The pelvis holds all of your reproductive organs. The pelvic tilt, or the cat stretch, is a yoga move that brings mobility to your spine, and relaxation to your mind. This move strengthens your abdominals while stretching your chest, and shoulders. Pelvic tilts also helps to ease back pain.
How to Perform a Pelvic Tilt
To perform a pelvic tilt, get down on the floor, and position yourself on all fours. Curl your back towards the ceiling until you feel a stretch in your back. Tighten your abs, and drop your head. Hold this position for ten seconds.
Next, reverse the arch in your back by pushing your tailbone up, and tilt your head back. Exhale as you curl your back and inhale as you arch. Repeat 10 times.
The slower you perform this exercise, the more meditative it becomes. Exercises that unite your mind and body have extra health benefits, such as improving your digestion and your flexibility.
More than that, pelvic tilts will train your abdominals and your pelvis to contract and release which will help your baby move and shift during delivery.
2 Second Plié
The reason why ballet dancers have sculpted legs is partly due to a move called the plié. By definition, plié is French for bent. Pliés help keep joints limber and the tendons springy. This move also helps to strengthen the entire body.
Stand up. Open your legs wider than your shoulders. Turn your feet out, but make sure that your balance is strong. Distribute your weight evenly on both legs.
Bend your knees, slowly lowering your body until your thighs become parallel to the floor. Keep your back straight. Make sure that your ears are over your shoulder, and your shoulders are over your hips. Push your arms in the air. Lower your arms as you push up with legs to return to your starting position. Inhale as you bend, and exhale as you straighten your legs. Do three sets of 10 reps.
If you are doing second pliés properly, you will feel the burn in your inner thighs, quads, calves, and glutes. Stand in front of a mirror to check your position.
There are many physical health benefits to exercise. Fitness builds strong bones, improves muscle tone, and helps you maintain a healthy weight. Exercise has mental health benefits, too. Studies show that regular exercisers are upbeat and more relaxed.
While working the heart, endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin flood the bloodstream. These feel-good chemicals course through your veins, alleviating depression. At the same time, they trigger enthusiasm, and happiness. All of these happy chemicals can only benefit your labor.
You may already know about Kegel exercises, but chances are, you are not doing them correctly. Kegels can take a little time to perfect because the muscles are internal.
Many women perform Kegels by squeezing the vagina as tight as possible. This method is not entirely correct. To isolate all of the pelvic floor muscles, follow these techniques:
First, squeeze your back passage as if you are trying to stop passing gas.
Second, pretend you are stopping urination in midstream. Think of the motion used to pull a tissue out of a box. Lift these muscles the same way, upward into the vagina.
Third, draw the clitoris towards the vagina.
The muscles you use for these three actions are the pelvic floor muscles. Contract all three muscles for five seconds, and then release.
Repeat this Kegel exercise five times in a row. Perform five sets three times a day. To train your pelvic floor muscles, gradually increase how long you hold the contraction.
If you are performing this exercise correctly, your belly button should not move. You should also be able to speak and breathe normally while contracting your muscles. Kegels can take a little time to perfect because the muscles are located within the body. Once you have mastered Kegels, you can perform them anywhere—lying down, standing up, at home, or at work.
All of these exercises will improve your strength and flexibility. The result will be an easier labor and delivery.