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In late pregnancy, your body will begin to show signs that it is time for your baby to be born through labor and delivery. Even though every birth is unique, prenatal exercises and adequate preparation can help you feel more confident when you go into labor and help your birthing experience go as smoothly as possible. As you prepare for birth, you should consult a healthcare professional every step of the way and prepare as much as possible for the new addition to your family.
Prenatal exercise in general is great for any pregnant woman, and increasing physical fitness will make the endurance of labor easier. There are also certain prenatal exercises that will actually help your body to prepare for birth by dealing better with contractions and pushing.
It may not be the most elegant position, but squatting is a time-tested way of preparing for and giving birth. This prenatal exercise strengthens your thighs and helps open your pelvis.
- Stand facing the back of a chair, with your feet slightly more than hip-width apart and your toes pointed outward. Hold the back of the chair for support.
- Contract your abdominal muscles, lift your chest, and relax your shoulders. Then lower your tailbone toward the floor as though you were sitting down on a chair. Find your balance – most of your weight should be toward your heels. Hold this position for as long as it’s comfortable.
- Take a deep breath in and then exhale, pushing into your legs to rise to a standing position.
Pelvic tilts strengthen abdominal muscles, help relieve backache during pregnancy and labor, and ease delivery. This prenatal exercise can also improve the flexibility of your back, and ward off back pain.
- Get down on your hands and knees, with your arms shoulder-width apart and your knees hip-width apart. Keep your arms straight, but don’t lock your elbows.
- As you breathe in, tighten your abdominal muscles, tuck your buttocks under, and round your back.
- Relax your back into a neutral position as you breathe out.
- Repeat at your own pace, following the rhythm of your breath: Count to five as you slowly arch your back and tuck your pelvis under, and count to five as you slowly return to the neutral position. Repeat three to five times.
This is a prenatal exercise that strengthens and stretches muscles in your back, thighs, and pelvis, and improves your posture. It also keeps your pelvic joints flexible, improves blood flow to your lower body, and eases delivery.
- Simply sit on the floor with your knees bent, feet pulled in towards you
- Press both knees gently toward the floor using your elbows, you should feel a stretch in your inner thighs
- Don’t bounce your knees up and down rapidly. If you find it difficult at first to keep your back straight, use a wall to support your back.
- Hold the position for 10 or 15 seconds and repeat the stretch five or 10 times.
Strengthen the pelvic floor muscle (PC muscle), as you will need this muscle to be strong during delivery to avoid tearing and damage to the vagina. To find your pelvic floor muscles, simply stop your urination mid-stream. Once you identify the muscles, you can practice squeezing them.
- Contract the pelvic floor muscle and hold for three to 10 seconds
- Then relax and repeat up to 10 times
Note: To do fast Kegels, quickly contract and relax your pelvic floor muscle 25 to 50 times. Relax for 5 seconds and repeat the set up to four times.
During labor, we turn off thinking and tune completely into our bodies. A great way to practice this is through prenatal yoga. Practicing poses, stretching, and the prenatal exercises of yoga teaches us to turn off thought, feel what our bodies are telling us, and be aware of what is happening internally. Here are more reasons why I love yoga during pregnancy.
Another way to stretch the same muscles and also make some room for your baby in your pelvis.
- Sit on the floor again with the bottoms of both feet touching
- Clutch your toes with your hands
- And lean forward, back straight
This should give your back and hips some relief too.
These prenatal exercises can yield great benefits with minimal effort and help you to prepare for birth. What is great is that these prenatal exercises require no special equipment except comfortable clothes, and a little space to do them!