Prenatal Exercise – Birth Fitness
There are many prenatal exercise programs out there that help inspire pregnant women to move their bodies safely through pregnancy but what about birth?
While staying fit and active through your pregnancy can certainly help you through your labour, let’s take it a step further and use the fitness principle of specificity which states that we should train for the activity we are preparing for. In labour and birth we want to encourage movement, birth positions that use gravity and breathing that helps deliver oxygen to mom and babe. Preparing for birth using these 3 key aspects can help facilitate labour and delivery and also promote a safe and healthy return to function postpartum.
Movement through labour uses gravity, can help encourage the descent of baby into the pelvis, and may also lessen the discomfort of contractions. Walking and dancing are great ways to move though labour so applying the principle of specificity to your prenatal fitness, try to incorporate walking and a bit of dancing. If dancing is not your thing, you can practice similar movements while seated on a ball. You can then use these movements and the ball during your labour.
Sitting on a birth ball, circle your pelvis or rock your hips back and forth and side to side. If standing, you can bend over and place your head and arms on the side of a bed or sofa while continuing to sway and circle your hips. If you know and use these movements in your pregnancy, you will naturally incorporate them into your labour and birth.
Whatever birth position is most comfortable for you is best and you will most likely find that position on her own following your own instincts or you may try a position you learned in your prenatal class. The supported squat, side lying and the supported forward lean/kneel are great positions for labour and birth so practicing them and doing exercises that train the muscles used in these positions is a really effective way to prepare your body. In labour the supported squat can be done with a person supporting you or with a ball.
While pregnant use a stability ball placed in the low back and pressed against a wall. Lower down slowly into a squat and slowly raise back up. Progress to lowering down and staying in a deep squat for a few breaths visualizing space and openness in the pelvis. Another great option is to hang onto a door handle or rebozo tied securely to something and slowly lower yourself into a squat. The clam and side lying bent knee lifts are great for preparing the body for a side lying position and they are also great exercises to do postpartum.
Hovering (a pfilates movement) is a great glute builder and pelvic floor exercise to do in pregnancy which also encourages space in the pelvis for birth. Incorporating the movement into a supported forward lean using the stability ball allows you to build strength and endurance in a supported position while also using gravity.
Breathing plays a critical role in preventive and restorative exercise programming. The Core Breath helps women connect to the movement and function of their pelvic floor in relation to their diaphragm and deep abdominals. The Core Breath is an exercise in and of itself and helps you learn to connect with the ability to engage the core but also the importance of releasing and letting go of tension in their pelvic floor and abdominals.
Try incorporating gentle movement, such as walking and pelvic rocking, exercises specific to birth positions and core breathing into your prenatal exercise routine to help better prepare your body for birth and set it up for optimal healing postpartum.