No one — not your doctor, midwife, or even your mother — can reliably predict how your labor will progress. Fortunately, there are a few exercises you can do now to help prepare your body for what’s to come.
Exercise 1 : Kegels
Kegel exercises are small internal contractions of the pelvic floor muscles that support your urethra, bladder, uterus, and rectum. Strengthening your pelvic floor muscles improves circulation to your rectal and vaginal area, helping to keep hemorrhoids at bay and speeding healing after an episiotomy or tear, if you have one during childbirth. There’s even some evidence suggesting that strong pelvic floor muscles may shorten the pushing stage of labor.
You can do Kegels anywhere — sitting at your computer, watching TV, even standing in line at the supermarket. Here’s how:
- Tighten the muscles around your vagina as if trying to interrupt the flow of urine when going to the bathroom.
- Hold for a count of four, then release. Repeat ten times. Try to work up to three or four sets about three times a day.
Exercise 2 : Pelvic tilt or angry cat
This variation of the pelvic tilt, done on all fours, strengthens the abdominal muscles and eases back pain during pregnancy and labor.
- Get down on your hands and knees, arms shoulder-width apart and knees hip-width apart, keeping your arms straight but not locking the elbows.
- As you breathe in, tighten your abdominal muscles and 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.
Exercise 3 : Squat
It may not be the most elegant position, but squatting is a time-honored way of preparing for and giving birth. This 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, 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.
Take a deep breath in and then exhale, pushing into your legs to rise to a standing position.
Exercise 4 : Tailor or Cobbler Pose
This position can help open your pelvis and loosen your hip joints in preparation for birth. It can also improve your posture and ease tension in your lower back.
- Sit up straight against a wall with the soles of your feet touching each other (sit on a folded towel if that’s more comfortable for you).
- Gently press your knees down and away from each other, but don’t force them.
- Stay in this position for as long as you’re comfortable.
Remember to start slowly and work at your own level for each exercise.