10 Essential Exercises to Prepare for Labour: A Complete Guide
Pre and post-natal fitness experts know how to prepare for labour, and this post will help inform you in how you can take labour preparation into your own hands. While labour is of coursenatural process, preparing your body for it can make the journey smoother, more comfortable and prevent tearing. In general, regular exercise during pregnancy will enhance your physical and mental well-being, boost your stamina, and increase your strength – all of which are of course valuable during labour. In this blog post, we’ll explore ten essential exercises to prepare for labour!
Always consult with your healthcare provider before starting any new exercise routine during pregnancy, as individual circumstances and health conditions can vary. They can provide guidance on safe and appropriate exercises based on your specific situation.
Pelvic floor activation and breathing exercises
The first thing to do if you’re preparing for labour is to relax, breath deeply, and connect with your pelvic floor. The more connected to your pelvic floor you are by the time you go into labour, the calmer you’ll be able to remain between contractions.
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to activate the pelvic floor muscles with your breath…
Start by finding a comfortable position. You can do this exercise while sitting, standing, or lying down. Choose a position that allows you to relax and focus on your breath and pelvic floor.
Relax your pelvic floor! Before you can activate your pelvic floor, it’s essential to relax it first. Take a few deep breaths to relax your body, especially the pelvic area.
Practice diaphragmatic breathing, also known as deep breathing. This type of breathing engages the diaphragm, which helps create pressure changes in the abdomen, contributing to pelvic floor activation. Start by inhaling deeply through your nose, allowing your abdomen to expand (not just your chest). Then exhale slowly through your mouth, allowing your abdomen to contract and gently pull inward. Ensure that your breath is slow, controlled, and deep.
As you exhale, focus on gently contracting and lifting your pelvic floor muscles. Imagine pulling them up and in, as if you’re trying to stop the flow of urine or prevent passing gas.
Use visualisation to help activate the pelvic floor. Imagine a string attached to the bottom of your spine gently lifting your pelvic floor as you exhale. This imagery can help you connect with the muscles you’re targeting.
Coordinate your breath with your pelvic floor contraction. As you exhale and contract your pelvic floor, you should feel a gentle lift and engagement of these muscles. As you inhale, allow the muscles to relax.
Practice this breathing and pelvic floor activation exercise regularly. You can do it for a few minutes each day, gradually increasing the duration as you become more comfortable with the technique. If you have specific concerns about your pelvic floor or are experiencing issues, consider consulting a pelvic floor physical therapist or a healthcare professional. They can provide tailored exercises and guidance to address your individual needs.
Remember that it may take some time to develop a strong connection between your breath and pelvic floor muscles. Be patient and consistent with your practice. If you experience pain or discomfort during this exercise, consult a healthcare provider for further guidance.
Pelvic floor exercises to prepare for labour
Pelvic floor exercises are crucial during pregnancy. They help strengthen the pelvic muscles, making it easier to control your bladder and prepare your body for labour. Not only this, but they also strengthen the mind-muscle connection between you and your pelvic floor, which is essential when preparing for labour.
There are many ways to exercise your pelvic floor. Engaging your pelvic floor, like you might have learned to do with your core, in day-to-day activities and workouts will already make a difference. Then, you can incorporate pelvic floor engagement into the very structure of your workouts. You can also perform kegel exercises. We have written our very own guide for pelvic floor strength – click here to find out everything you need to know!
Prepare for labour with squats
Squats are considered beneficial for preparing for labor for several reasons – strength, flexibility and posture.
Squats strengthen your pelvic floor! By engaging the muscles of the pelvic floor, including the gluteal and leg muscles. As you lower yourself into a squat and then push back up, these muscles are activated. Strengthening the pelvic floor can provide better support for your growing uterus and baby during pregnancy, as well as during labor and childbirth.
They also help improve the flexibility of your hip and pelvic joints. This can be especially helpful during labor as it may make it easier for the baby to descend through the birth canal. Increased flexibility can also reduce the risk of muscle strain or injury during labor.
Squats encourage good posture and alignment of the spine. This can alleviate some of the back and pelvic discomfort that can be common during pregnancy. Proper posture can also assist in the optimal positioning of the baby for delivery.
Squats are a compound exercise that works the muscles in your legs and glutes. These muscles play a crucial role in the pushing stage of labor. Having strong leg and glute muscles can make pushing more effective and reduce the duration of this stage.
It’s important to perform squats with proper form to avoid injury. Here’s a basic guideline for performing squats during pregnancy:
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and engage your core muscles for stability. Lower your body by bending your knees, keeping them in line with your toes. Keep your back straight and chest up. Aim to go as low as is comfortable for you, but avoid going too deep if it causes discomfort. Finally, push through your heels to return to a standing position. Perform squats at a pace and depth that feels comfortable for you. You can use a chair or support if needed!
If you’re unsure if you’re squatting correctly, please get the advice of a personal trainer! The last thing you need right now is an injury so you want to get it right early on.
Pelvic tilts to prepare for labour
Pelvic tilts help alleviate lower back pain and improve posture, essential as your belly grows during pregnancy.
How to do it: Lie on your back with knees bent, tighten your abdominal muscles, and tilt your pelvis upward. Be mindful of where you are in your pregnancy, as it is advised to avoid lying on your back after the 28 week mark!
Prenatal yoga, pilates and other classes
For those of us that struggle to motivate ourselves to exercise consistently, or enjoy exercising with others, prenatal classes might be the best route for you. If you prefer to do a class alone at home, you can do an online class, or do a 1:1 session with a pre and post natal personal trainer or instructor. A good prenatal class will cover all bases for preparing you for labour, and you don’t have to think! Just show up, and follow instructios.
Popular options are prenatal yoga and prenatal pilates. Prenatal yoga combines gentle stretches, breathing exercises, and meditation, making it an excellent choice for pregnancy. Prenatal Pilates focuses on core strength, flexibility, and balance, making it an excellent option for pregnant women.
Preparing for labour through exercise is a smart and healthy choice during pregnancy. These exercises offer a comprehensive approach to strengthening your body, enhancing your endurance, and promoting overall well-being. Remember to consult with your healthcare provider before starting any new exercise routine during pregnancy and listen to your body, making adjustments as necessary. By engaging in these exercises, you can optimize your physical and mental readiness for the incredible journey of childbirth.