Pregnant woman stretching to prepare for childbirth.

Pregnancy Exercises to Prepare for Childbirth

When you first find out you’re pregnant, you’ll likely be flooded with a range of emotions. Amidst all of the excitement, many expecting moms begin making a mental checklist of all the things that need to get done. Shop for baby gear and products, set up the nursery, think about baby names. . . the list goes on and on. After scheduling your doctor’s appointments and stocking up on healthy food to fuel your pregnancy, you may want to consider adding in a few pregnancy-specific exercises. Be sure to clear these with your doctor first, but then start to incorporate some of the best pregnancy exercises to prepare for childbirth into your weekly schedule.


The Importance of Exercise During Pregnancy

Although pregnancy isn’t the right time to start training for a marathon or begin a journey towards bodybuilding, exercise still plays an important role in both you and your baby’s health. Regular exercise can help you feel more energized, improve your mental health, and keep you confident as your pregnancy progresses. In addition to added strength and flexibility, exercise can also help aid in digestion, improve circulation, and stabilize your balance—all of which are critical during pregnancy and beyond.

Regular exercise during pregnancy has been shown to promote a healthier weight gain, ease constipation, reduce back pain, and can help lower your risk of pregnancy-related complications like preeclampsia or gestational diabetes.

Is Exercising During Pregnancy Safe?

For the most part, exercise is safe during pregnancy. However, you should not start doing intense workouts if you didn’t do them before getting pregnant. You also need to check with your doctor before starting anything new. If you have any of the symptoms below, stop exercising immediately and see your doctor:

  • Chest pain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Calf pain
  • Calf swelling
  • Abnormal shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Uterine contractions
  • Vaginal fluid leakage
  • Decreased fetal movement


How Much Exercise Should You Get While Pregnant?

You don’t need to become a dedicated athlete to reap the benefits of exercise during pregnancy. Instead, try to aim for about 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise each day—or at least most days—of the week. You can vary your workout routines and you don’t have to engage in intense gym sessions every day. Instead, try to mix things up.

One day you could go for a brisk walk, one day you may incorporate strength training, and another day you could reach your 30 minutes with a prenatal yoga class. Just remember to discuss your plan with your doctor prior to beginning, especially if you have a high-risk pregnancy.


5 Exercises to Help You Prepare for Labor

While any exercise can help you strengthen your muscles and prepare your body for pregnancy, there are a few specific movements that can be beneficial. Always talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise regimen during pregnancy. Then, begin to incorporate the following 10 exercises to help you prepare for childbirth.

1. Pelvic Floor Exercises

One of the best ways to prepare for childbirth is to start doing pelvic floor exercises as soon as possible. Since the pelvic floor can stretch up to 300% during childbirth, it’s important to help make these muscles as strong as possible. You can perform Kegels or engage in diaphragmatic breathing to exercise these muscles. Try performing both in different positions such as child’s pose, side-lying, and on your and knees.

2. Deep Squats

Squats are a great way to strengthen your core, increase flexibility, and get you ready for childbirth. Deep squats can help open the pelvic outlet, which can give you more room during delivery.

To perform a squat, place your heels slightly wider than your shoulders to accommodate your growing belly. Your toes should be pointed slightly out. During an inhale, slowly bend down and lower your knees—as if you were sitting down into a chair. Continue bending deeper and hold for a few breaths, then exhale back to standing. Aim for about 10 reps and build up to multiple sets per day.start your order

3. Reverse and Side Lunges

Other great exercises to prepare for childbirth are reverse and side lunges. These can help you further strengthen your core and hips, but they also help encourage your baby to move into an optimal position for birth. However, they may be more difficult to perform during the 3rd trimester, so try to incorporate these into your workouts early. You can also use a chair, desk, or other object for added support.

Lunges should be performed on both legs, beginning in a neutral position. For reverse lunges, brace your core as you step backwards with one foot and gently bend the back knee until the front is around 90 degrees. Step back to start and repeat with the other leg. If 90 degrees is too deep, feel free to modify and only go as far as you’re comfortable. For side lunges, step out to one side and bend the active knee before returning to the starting position. Aim to do about five reps of each on each leg, working up to three to five sets.

4. Cat/Cow Stretching

If you’ve ever taken a yoga class, you’re likely familiar with the cat/cow stretch. This is also commonly referred to as pelvic tilt exercises and they help to relieve pressure from both the upper and lower regions of your back. When done regularly, the cat/cow stretch can also help you get your abdominal muscles ready for delivery, improve circulation, and help aid in digestion.

To perform this exercise, get on all fours with your wrists directly under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Starting with your back parallel to the floor, gently inhale and lift your chest upwards while letting your stomach fall towards the floor. Then, exhale and round your upper back while you bring your stomach gently inwards. Follow your breath and repeat about 10 times. You can do this multiple times a day as needed.

5. Butterfly Stretches

Finally, incorporate plenty of butterfly stretches into your warmup and cool down periods. These help to stretch out the hips and can create a wider birth canal to ease delivery. When doing butterfly stretches, avoid putting excess pressure on your knees with your hands and instead, slowly work on bringing your feet closer to your body while engaging in deep breaths.

When exercising, make sure that you continue breathing during muscle contraction. Holding your breath can add unnecessary pressure on your uterus. Think of this as breathing practice for labor and make an extra effort to inhale and exhale with your movements. You should also avoid lying flat on your back during exercises after the first trimester, as this can hinder blood flow to your baby. Instead, try to keep your heart above your belly button and use a pillow for added support in floor exercises.


Getting into the Right Mindset

In addition to physical exercises and stretching, it’s important to take some time to mentally prepare for labor. This is a common theme of childbirth classes for a reason, as it can help make the process of delivery much easier. Start taking the time to mentally prepare during the third trimester as your due date starts getting closer. You may want to incorporate interval training to help you imagine how contractions will be. To do this, simply set up a small circuit that’s safe for pregnancy and set your timer so that you perform 30 to 90 seconds worth of work then a rest period of a minute or two. The goal is to be able to bring your heart rate down during periods of rest using deep relaxation techniques or calming strategies. Once you master this, you’ll be more prepared for labor.

If you have a high-risk pregnancy, do not try any of these exercises without getting the proper clearance from your doctor. You may need to make adjustments or work with a physical trainer to ensure that you and your baby are safe. This includes women who have geriatric pregnancies and pregnancies after a premature birth.

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