Certain stretches can help prepare your body for labor
Exercising the muscles in your pelvic floor helps you control these muscles better while pushing, and potentially avoid tears during birth. You may also squat during labor or delivery since it makes use of gravity and opens up your pelvis, so practicing now will help you hold that position with more strength! Further, strengthening your pelvis floor will also help you recover after birth, and restore good urinary control and tone. Your pelvic floor muscles are the ones you use to start and stop the flow of urine. Both kegels and squats take practice, so make sure you try to do a little bit every day!
How to do Squats: An easy squat exercise is a wall squat. Stand with your back straight against a wall, place your feet shoulder width apart and about six inches from the wall, and keep your arms relaxed at your sides. Slowly and gently slide down the wall to a squatting position (keeping your back straight) until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Hold the position for five to 10 seconds, slowly slide back to a standing position. Repeat five or 10 times. Find more information here on how to safely do different types of squats during pregnancy.
How to practice Kegels: Just tighten up the muscles, then relax. You can either do 10-20 quick repeats, with a quick tighten-release; or you can do slow “elevator” kegels, where you count slowly from 1-5, tightening your muscles a little tighter with each count, then count back down from 5-1, gradually relaxing the muscles. It’s best to do 100 kegels a day in late pregnancy. It sounds like a lot, but it’s easy to do a few at a time, off and on all day. You can do them while talking on the phone, or watching TV, or driving, or showering, or whenever. You can do this anytime, anywhere, and no one knows you’re doing it!
These strengthen your stomach muscles, which can help with back pain. They also help the baby move to an ideal position for birth. These are also called the Cat/Cow in yoga!
How: Get on your hands and knees. Tighten up your stomach muscles and muscles in your bottom… this will arch your back up like an angry cat, at the same time “tuck your tail” like a scared dog. Hold for a few seconds, then relax back to a flat back (don’t let back sag down.). Repeat at least 20 times a day.
This positions strengthens the muscles in your back, loosens hip joints, and helps baby get into the best position for birth.
What do to: Sit on the floor with your back straight in the "butterfly position". As 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.
Practice breathing and meditation
Prenatal yoga is a great way to learn to use your breath in a way that will benefit you in labor.
"First, yoga involves synchronization of breathing awareness and muscle relaxation, which decrease tension and the perception of pain. Second, yoga movements, breathing, and chanting may increase circulating endorphins and serotonin, “raising the threshold of mind-body relationship to pain”. Third, practicing yoga postures over time alters pain pathways through the parasympathetic nervous system, decreasing one’s need to actively respond to unpleasant physical sensations." - Romano and Goer
Eating well can help with labor
- Protein for strengthening muscles
- Lots of water
- Raspberry leaf tea is said to strengthen uterine muscles
- Avoid fatty or oily foods that are hard to digest and may increase nausea or gastrointestinal issues during labor
- Reduces back pain
- Eases constipation
- May decrease your risk of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and cesarean delivery
- Promotes healthy weight gain during pregnancy
- Improves your overall general fitness and strengthens your heart and blood vessels
- Helps you to lose the baby weight after your baby is born