When you first find out you’re pregnant, there are lots of emotions and a list of things to do that take hold of every waking thought. Planning and saving for baby, decorating the nursery, preparing other children for a new sibling, and an overwhelming sense of “we have to get this done, like, yesterday.” Among those many thoughts may also be wanting to know the best exercises for preparing for labor.
When doing exercises to prepare your body for having a baby there is no one-size-fits-all or guaranteed method to ensure you have a smooth labor and delivery. But there are exercises you can do that help create more space for the baby to descend into the pelvis, and relax the pelvic floor to help keep you comfortable until the big day.
Here are my top 5 exercises to prepare your body for labor.
Squats are a really awesome exercise for many things. They strengthen the leg muscles, help build pretty glutes, and are great for the pelvic floor. If you’re planning on an unmedicated delivery, a squat can be a birth position that is very helpful during the second stage of labor (the birthing phase). Doing squats during your pregnancy can help develop the strength to be in a squat for an extended period of time. Squats are also great for pelvic floor health. A nice, deep squat can help the pelvic floor release and relax, which is something you REALLY want to happen when a baby is coming out. No matter what birth you’re planning to have, squats are a super functional exercise that will help you build strength for the tasks required for life with a newborn.
Check out this video for an assisted deep squat perfect for preparing for labor!
Spinning Babies 3 Sisters
The three sisters are a common recommendation for getting baby to turn head down in later pregnancy, but I find them advantageous in a lot of ways during pregnancy. Side-lying release can be really great for creating space in the pelvis by helping release tight muscles. Inversion can help get baby to turn, as well as take pressure off of the pelvis in those later days when it feels like the baby just wants OUT. Rebozo sifting can feel really great on achy lower backs as well as tag-team with the other sisters to relieve pelvic pressure and make more room in the pelvis for baby to descend. The three sisters are also great DURING labor if it has stalled or progression is slow.
Adductor Rock Backs
Many moms-to-be experience tightness in their adductors, or inner thighs, during pregnancy. This can be pretty uncomfortable and also contribute to pelvic discomfort for some women. The adductor rock-back is more of a stretch, but with a gentle rock added. The combination of the two can help release tight adductors and also open the pelvic inlet, what you need to open for baby to descend and eventually make their grand entrance (or exit, rather.) If this one leg extended position is uncomfortable for you, a seated adductor release can help just as much, with less discomfort.
Feet-Inclined Glute Bridge
SO many women report a huge change in their glutes from pregnancy to postpartum, otherwise known as “where did my butt go?” As posture changes throughout pregnancy, many women adopt a more tucked under position of the pelvis. While this is totally fine and common, it can lead to the glutes disappearing. One of the focuses in my programming is to keep the glutes strong throughout pregnancy and into the postpartum period not only because glutes look pretty, but because the glutes and the pelvic floor are besties. Strengthening the glutes can help with coordination of the pelvic floor and this exercise gives an extra bang for your buck by doubling as an inversion. The feet-inclined glute bridge is an exercise that both strengthens the glutes and can relieve pressure on the pelvis in those last uncomfortable weeks (or months…)
Flower Bloom Breath
One of the hardest things to do in labor is to relax. With everything going on and all the new sensations you’re experiencing, relaxing your pelvic floor may be the very last thing on your mind. Or maybe you think it’ll just know how to do it on its own. Many women actually hold tension in their pelvic floors and don’t really understand what relaxing it even feels like, or maybe you just equate relaxing to when you go to the bathroom. The flower bloom breath by Anita Lambert of Holistic Health Physiotherapy is a great exercise that will teach you what relaxing the pelvic floor feels like which can also help you reduce tearing during birth and help labor progress. Breathing may not seem like an exercise, but I promise it’s actually really tough to change your breathing!
The birth process can be scary for many moms, but there are ways to prepare mentally and physically for the huge event of birth! The goal of these exercises is not only to prepare your body for birth by keeping your muscles strong but also to help you learn what it feels like to relax and release muscles in the pelvis and pelvic floor. In addition to helping you prepare for labor, exercises like these can help with your postpartum recovery. Happy laboring!