7 Easy Exercises for An Optimal Pregnancy & Labor

For most of us mamas, natural childbirth is a marathon. And just as you wouldn’t show up to a 26.2 mile race without training, you don’t want to show up on your delivery date without getting your body in shape.

Prenatal exercises can help open your pelvis and position your baby in a way that is optimal for childbirth (it’s called LOA or “left occiput anterior”).

The best time to start pregnancy exercises is when you discover you’re pregnant.

The second best time to start pregnancy exercises is now.

Of course, get the green light from your midwife, OB-GYN, or doctor before beginning any pregnancy exercise routine.

Okay, ready for the pregnancy exercises?

1. Walking

Yes, simple walking can help keep your body in balance as you approach your big day. Aim for at least 30 minutes a day, preferably outdoors for the fresh air, sunlight and natural surroundings.

2. Proper Sitting

While some may argue that this isn’t exactly “exercise,” I would disagree. When you’re carrying around 20 pounds of extra weight, and practice proper sitting, you’ll be strengthening your core and stabilizing your pelvis. The key is you want to avoid reclining in big couches, gliders and beds. As tempting as it is, it’s best to sit upright with your pelvis slightly forward. Sitting on an exercise ball is wonderful for pregnant mamas. Be sure your ball is firm enough and high enough so that your hips are higher than your knees.

After 30 weeks, to keep pelvis aligned and baby in optimal position, try sitting on an exercise ball as much as you can instead of a reclining in big couches or chairs. If you work on a computer, use this instead of your office chair. Many employers will even purchase this “chair” as an alternative.

Another great way to sit is cross legged. Sitting this way pushes the uterus forward, stretches the legs, and opens the pelvis more. The thing that’s great about this exercise is that you can do it in nearly any situation and people won’t even know you’re in training for a natural childbirth.

Spend as much time as you can sitting this way, especially once you hit that 3rd trimester, rather than on a big recliner or couch. Your body and baby will thank you come delivery time 🙂

Note that sitting in the squatting position is also an excellent pelvic floor strengthener.

Leaning pregnancy exercise

3. Leaning

To counteract all the time we are leaning back each day, it’s important to lean forward as a pregnant mama. Leaning on counters, tables and people all work. An old wives tale was to flip a posterior baby, you were to scrub all your floors on hands and knees. Gravity would pull the baby’s back forward and get him/her in optimal position.

Of course, an exercise ball can be a pregnant mamas best friend for this exercise not only pre-labor but during it. Draping your arms and upper body over exercise ball and roll around while your pelvis moves in midair can prepare your lower body for the work of natural labor.

Pelvic rocks cat cow pregnancy exercise

4. Pelvic Rocks (aka Pelvic Tilts or Cat Cow Stretch)

These are a simple exercise that keeps the pelvis loose and the lower back limber. You can begin these from day one and continue through labor.

If after 30 weeks, you want to try to flip a posterior baby to anterior position, do the pelvic rocks when you feel your baby move. She/he may be trying to get into a better position for birth and you can facilitate that process by doing pelvic rocks. I would recommend doing them 3 times a day for up to 20 minutes total time daily once you’re in third trimester.

Butterflies pregnancy exercise

5. Butterflies

This simple exercise opens your pelvis and keeps your lower back limber. You can do these from the moment you’re pregnant till you deliver. Sit on bottom and put soles of feet together. Pulse your legs up and down till you feel the stretch. You can even have your partner add resistance for a deeper stretch.

Forward leaning inversion pregnancy exercise

6. Forward Leaning Inversion

This powerful move helps to untwist lower uterine ligaments. Because of our poor posture and sedentary lifestyles, our uterus can be twisted and cramped, leaving less room for baby to settle into the optimal position. Additionally, if we’ve been in any type of accident or like to carry an older child on our hip, this exercise is essential.

You want to kneel on the edge of a couch or bed. Slowly lower yourself to your hands on the floor and then to your forearms. Elbows out, hands close. Use a stool or a partner if you need help. Let your head hang freely. Your chin is tucked. Your bottom should be highest. Flatten your lower back. Hold for 30 seconds. Come back up on your hands. Then lift yourself up to a kneeling position again, using stool or helper.

Do 1-3 times a day.

Please note: If you’ve had any abdominal or uterine cramping, have high blood pressure, or feel excessive baby movement, do not attempt this exercise. Check with your doctor or midwife before doing this or any of the above-mentioned exercises.

7. Optimal Sleeping Position

Once you hit 20 weeks, most doctors and midwives will dissuade you from sleeping on your back because it can cause problems with backaches, breathing, digestive system, hemorrhoids, low blood pressure and decrease circulation to your heart and your baby.

Obviously, we want to avoid sleeping on our belly so side sleeping is our best bet.

Sleeping on our left side is most optimal because it may in the amount of blood and nutrients that reach the placenta and your baby. It also works with gravity to get your baby in the most optimal position for birth, generally speaking, which is Left Occiput Anterior.

Be sure to use extra pillows for support, particularly one between your knees, to keep pelvis balanced and aligned as well as one for your tummy and or shoulder. Some swear by these pillows for full body support.

Here’s more information on how to sleep safely when pregnant.

So, there you have it.

Seven pregnancy exercises that can help improve our labors and chances of a natural childbirth.

How about YOU?

What exercises or positions did you practice before giving birth?

About the Author

Genevieve Howland is a childbirth educator and breastfeeding advocate. She is the bestselling author of The Mama Natural Week-by-Week Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth and creator of the Mama Natural Birth Course. A mother of three, graduate of the University of Colorado, and YouTuber with over 75,000,000 views, she helps mothers and moms-to-be lead healthier and more natural lives.

Midwife Maura Winkler CNM Mama Natural

Reviewed By
Maura Winkler, CNM, IBCLC

Maura Winkler, CNM, CD, IBCLC is a Certified Nurse Midwife, Registered Nurse, Certified Doula, Board Certified Lactation Consultant, wife and mother of two.

Learn to have an amazing birth

(without leaving your couch)


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  1. About number 4, the Pelvic Rocks, one should never, ever put one’s back in the second (right hand) position shown. That is terrible for the back. See Esther Gokhale’s work.

  2. Don’t know how old this thread is and don’t want to make anyone worry but my first baby cracked my tailbone on the way out at only 6lb 9oz since she was posterior, or “sunny side up” as the nurse called it. But before that the back labor really wasn’t too awful, but the next days sure we’re rough between that and a quite large episiotomy. But the next two babies went much more smoothly. Now expecting #4 and he’s been head down and engaged for over 10 weeks already. Can’t tell which way he’s facing but I’m considered high risk so I have weekly NST’s and ultrasounds so I’m going to ask tomorrow at my appointment. Having some prodromal labor since last night but nothing too painful just crampy. Anyway this info is helpful and greatly appreciated! Thanks! 😘

  3. Is downward dog just as effective as the forward leaning inversion? Kind of looks the same but without the chair.

    • The forward leaning inversion creates more of an incline than downward dog does.

      • I did the forward leaning inversion, pelvic tilts and moved on my hands and knees for hours each day when I found out my first baby was positioned horizontally at 39.3weeks and I had to be sceduled for a C-section. When I went back for the scheduling at 40.4weeks she was in the right position. Tough labour though.
        With baby 2, I was squatting from day one, only sat in the butterfly position in 3rd trime and walked a lot. Labour tooks about 3hours from start to finish. she cam eout so fast i didnt know i was done.

        • That’s awesome! A real testament to the effectiveness of these exercises.

  4. This is very useful article. For me walking was the only thing that I was looking for to find its facts

  5. I finally just six months ago got my period everymonth im 20 and my husband is 24 we have be trying to have a baby for the last 4 months i have tried every thing laying still with my legs up and nothing i get my period sometimes its 4 days late but nothing im so worried i might not get to be a mom. Please give me some thoughts and views thank you.

    • Sometimes it takes a while. Hopefully your dream will come true soon. Good luck!

    • Hi Elena, I had 3 miscarriages until finally being able to make it past 30 weeks. I know what it feels like to be unsure if you will ever get to be a mom and my heart goes out to you. I did start taking Shatavari after my 3 miscarriages, maybe this is a coincidence, maybe not, it is known to improve fertility and balance hormones. I am not an expert by any means so consult with someone but it is not risky to take anyways…I would make a special delicious chai each morning and stir some in. I would also look into some Red Clover infusions…google Susun Weed red clover infusions. I truly wish you the best.

  6. Great work. keep it up

  7. Do you have a post about postpartum pelvic floor physical therapy? My midwives suggested it and I have had two sessions and I can tell a difference already in better bladder control, less pain, etc.

  8. am 35 weeks pregnant n my baby still in breech position kindly,need your help.

  9. I will be due next week and I can’t wait, please what can I do?

    • Try the exercises!

  10. I’m 36weeks anytime I can go on labour n am afraid I think the baby s on breech position.Do I still have time to do those exercises.

    • Yes, see your chiropractor and ask them to do the Webster technique immediately and check out spinningbabies.com

    • Don’t know if I’m too late to help but I turned my baby at 36 weeks with chiro Webster technique, plus inversions from Spinning babies website – well all this helped relax tense ligaments and get baby out of pelvis, what really worked was after the inversions I put an ice pack on baby’s head. He/she didn’t like that at all ? and turned almost immediately. Show that baby who’s boss! Good luck!

  11. I got 5 weeks left/about a month ’til labor so i better start these exercises.I’m soooo scared of labor.i especially fear a difficult, super agonizing one! some of the women here are in labor for hours and then in the end a c section is done.i do not want that.if it’s gonna be a c section let it be done right away.if it’s gonna be normal delivery, let it be as easy as possible lol

  12. Hi,
    i am in 31 week,there are lot of mark in my stomach,does i can apply cream or after delivering can do.
    as well need to do sex in this period by continuously or how.

  13. I am 25weeks of pregnancy and my stomach doesn’t show yet .so what should I do?

    • All woman “show” at different points in pregnancy. If your provider is not concerned and baby is healthy, this might just be what is normal for you and your body.

    • don’t worry.some bumps show very early.some don’t.your bump will show when it’s time and it will really show and grow once it starts.no worries

  14. Hello . I’m am 27 weeks pregnant and my baby is breech. What can I do ? I am very afraid that my baby won’t turn and will have to do the CS . Thank you for your response .

    • At 27 weeks the baby still has room to move around (usually). Cat-cow position, as explained in this post several times a day, acupuncture, and chiropractic care, and if none of those work, ask your OB/ midwife for an external version (a doctor gives you medication to relax your uterus, and physically turns the baby. The EV is usually done close to term, to make sure the baby gets “stuck” head down. Hope that helps! Best wishes to you! 🙂

    • still plenty of time to change position for the baby.mine was in breech, then in transverse but now it’s in the right position.

    • Specifically the Webster technique at your chiropractor is the safest way to flip a breech

  15. Hi, I’m 20 weeks pregnant currently. I was wondering if these exercises can be done even if my 30 weeks sonography shows the baby is head down.. I mean will that help in keeping the baby in the same position till delivery? This Is my first hence I have alot in my head. Xoxo

    • As I came mementoes in the previous post: There is still a small chance the baby can turn, we start worrying more closer to 32-34 weeks. Cat-cow position, as explained in this article several times a day, acupuncture, and chiropractic care, and if none of those work, ask your OB/ midwife for an external version (a doctor gives you medication to relax your uterus, and physically turns the baby). The External version is usually done close to term (36-38 weeks) to make sure the baby gets “stuck” head down.

  16. Can we do these exercises in our 2nd trimester. Im 15weeks n still having nausea, however i would like to start exercising.

    • absolutely.

      • Am 20weeks of pregnant n my baby is breech what can I do

        • It’s not uncommon for babies to be breech at 20 weeks. If baby is still not head down at 30-34 weeks, a chiropractic adjustment could help. There are also things your provider can do. Good luck, hopefully baby will turn on their own!

  17. Is there a particular order to do these in? I am wondering if one would be good as a warmup (maybe the cat-cow?) and then on to the others? Mostly because I think if I did the forward leaning inversion first, I might come back up quite lightheaded! Any thoughts?

  18. I havnt asked my ob yet but i really want to start doing something , im 38 weeks and 5days and im having pain and all i wanna do is lean foward or be on my hands and knees , i dont see my ob till wensday which is aftet tomarrow but idk if i can wait it out ?

    • And i just bought a yoga ball like 30 mins ago AND ITS TOO SMALL ???

  19. Does anyone have any experience with SPD? The pelvic pain is so extreme!

    Just saw the chiro/physical therapist and he recommended ball, walking, but absolutely no cross-legs. Also to stop squatting (it was the only exercise I’ve been able to do). Basically my muscles are too tight and some alignment/over-production of hormone relaxin.

    My first pregnancy was so active and this one I went from nausea up to 16 weeks, to slight bleeding so on mild bed rest, then the first week I try to get back into working out at 20 weeks the SPD kicked in. Got SPD first pregnancy in the last month. Not this early

    Currently 29 weeks and the inactivity is killing me. Any other tried and true suggestions?

    • Could you swim? That might be a nice, low impact way to get some movement in.

    • I’ve also been dealing with SPD since week 20 in this pregnancy. Tried running around that time and couldn’t walk for two days after. I had to switch to swimming. Even that does hurt, so I limit my time to 30 minutes and go as often as possible to the pool, and try to put most of my effort in my arm work.

    • I actually dealt with SPD from about 23 weeks until recently (I’m now 35 weeks). For some reason kegels (TONS of them ~60-100/day), is what helped me. I couldn’t turn over in bed, get up from the couch, walk up.down staris nothing. When I started doing kegels regularly, the pain subsided. I still have mild pain occasionally – but I’ve noticed marked improvement,

    • Stabilizing your pelvic floor before movement is key. Before walking, before turning over in bed, anything: do a pelvic lift, a correct “kegel.” Hold this as you move. Try not to do any movements or positions that are asymmetrical, or wide leg stances. Clamshell exercises are good, and for more reference on pelvic exercise a book called “Pelvic anatomy and Exercise” by Blandine Calais-Germain is very good. But really, get to a physical therapist if you have SP pain.

    • I dealt with spd in my secong pregnancy and currrent one. started at 13weeks with my second and it was dreadful but i found out about the pillow exercise in my third trime and it was a lifesaver. Just sit straight n a good chair, knees slightly below hips, put a pillow or folded fist between your knees and squeeze and release. work up the counts as you see fit. i did squats throughout and it didnt bother me. Now I do it only when the pain starts to kick in but it hasnt been too much trouble.

  20. I never did anything except normal house cleaning and tasks, and pretty much sat on my butt during pregnancy, all six, and have been able to deliver just fine. I don’t think you have to do anything special, because the uterus does all the training on it’s own, yes Braxton-Hicks serve their purpose.

    • Lucky you.But it’s not the same for every women out there.

  21. I am really surprised that sitting in the squatting position is not mentioned as this is an excellent pelvic floor exercise.

    • Pretty sure it’s listed right at the bottom of point 2. ?

  22. Hello, I just recently found out my 2nd baby is hanging out in my belly, feet first. I realize, since I’m only 5.5 months pregnant, there is loads of time for it to move. However, I can’t help but worry. I will be sure to try out your positions and continue to do yoga at home every day. I’m determined to get this baby moving into the proper position!

  23. Genevieve, I just watched your video on Yoga for the first time and I instantly loved your personality and energy. I am 24 months pregnant with my first child. My first trimester was relatively easy, I had no major issues, but in week 19, all of a sudden, my health went downhill as back pain and poor digestion left me in constant pain, making it impossible for me to walk, lie down or even sit without proper back support. I used to have these episodes of pain that were specially severe leaving me in tears. I constantly thought to myself, how would I make it to the end, when I am in such a bad shape so early in pregnancy. It negatively affected my sleep and overall mood. My OB suggested I get a support belt and take over-the-counter medication to help with pain and indigestion. However, I disliked the idea of relying on a support belt as I felt it was further disabling my body and taking medicine made me feel guilty.

    This I believe has been mostly due to poor lifestyle: no proper exercise routine, poor diet and bad eating habits. Also, since this pregnancy was not well planned, I had no idea what to expect in weeks to come to better prepare myself and also because thing were going relatively smooth in first trimester, I did not think I would run into any major issues. Anyways, When things got worse pain wise, my OB suggested that I go see a Physiotherapist for the back pain. Thankfully, my therapist turned out to be great, she listened to my problems and worked with me on developing an exercise program that I have been following for 3 weeks. It has helped me tremendously with the back pain. Also, improving my diet and eating habits have helped me with digestion.

    I now have some hope that I will be able to better manage rest of my pregnancy. My goal is to strengthen myself enough in natural ways so I don’t have to rely on any medications. Your video has renewed my motivation to not give up. Thank you so much!

    • <3 Some of your digestive issues can be helped with probiotics. I take Jarrow Formulas daily with my pregnancy. I love it when I read about pregnancy digestive issues and find that they don't apply to me because my microbiome is on point. <3 I hope you start to feel better soon.

    • You sound just like me! My 5th and 6th months were awful for me but I kept up with my diet and exercises I learned from my Bradley Birth class and suddenly it went away! I think it must’ve been the way baby was sitting. Now at 34 weeks, people constantly comment on how energetic I am!

    • It just seems like you’ve been pregnant 24 months, my friend. I’m betting it’s 24 weeks.

  24. I’m surprised you didn’t mention Kegels, is that just a given? 🙂 I get so tired of doing them but I had a very quick pushing stage with my first baby and no issues with urine leakage so I’m guessing lots of Kegels helped! I do a prenatal workout video called Mommyshape. It combines yoga, dance, strength training with small weights and mindful breathing and relaxation practice (also an important “exercise!”). It kicks my pregnant butt and really helps keep me in shape to keep up with my four year old. 🙂

  25. I read that doing horizontal figure eights with my hips (learned in bellydance classes) would help to position baby for an easier and faster delivery. I did this numerous times every day, in addition to running through bellydance and Bollywood choreography most days, and my son was born in less than 3 hours!

  26. Hi I’m about 36 weeks with my first baby (baby boy), my Dr had said that I will most likely not be receiving any more ultrasounds unless medically necessary. How will I know if my baby is in the right position for birth (head down) without an ultrasound?

    • A good doctor can easily feel through your belly for where the baby’s head is at.

    • They can also tell by doing a vaginal exam. They feel for the sutures to see which way baby is facing. This of course happens once labor starts. Forward leaning positions are great to keep your baby facing the right direction!

        I birthed 4 of my five children at home with not one vaginal exam! With my first child, someone was always sticking their hand in me…. For WHAT?! No thanks please?

        • Right!?! My first was a nightmare. Way too many hands in there. Not happening this time. I will go to the hospital when my water breaks. There is no question it is “real” labor then. I would love to do a homebirth but my insurance won’t cover it. Wish I was done with my midwifery training.

          • Exactly. You start to feel like a thanksgiving day turkey. ..

        • I had no VEs until I was in labour with my first, then everyone seemed to want to get in on it! I seriously believe the VE on my arrival at hospital stalled my labour at 9cm & I ended up having a c section 12 hours later. This time I’ve told my husband that if anyone tries to insist on examining me to tell them to leave the room. Hands to yourself people!

    • The midwife or doctor will still be able to access how the baby is sitting when they measure your belly 🙂

  27. Its crazy because I’m on my 3rd pregnancy right now and with all of them when I lay on my left side I get very uncomfortable, my heart and breath rate feels like it rises. I have to lay on my right, so weird. I have a normal pregnancy with the exception of horrible SI joint, sciatica and pelvic pain.

    • I’ve noticed the same thing! Laying on my left side leaves me struggling for breath, so I’ve just been laying on my right and hoping it doesn’t make that big of a difference.

    • Im going thru the same exact thing!

    • I feel you on the sciatica, si joint and pelvic pain! 🙁 it stinks! I’m on my 4th and only 16 months after my third was born. Almost done thank goodness!

      • Check out a women’s health physical therapist!!!! They are well trained in treating pregnant women!!

  28. Oh wow, I didn’t know about these “post delivery hacks”. But what I do to speed up the healing is to boil some guava leaves and then steam the area. It’s been our life hacks (for lack of better words) from generation to generation. It’s effective though. But thanks for all your tips. I know they will all come in handy one day. 🙂

    • where do you buy those? a natural food store? do they need to be dried or no? i’m having my first and will be trying anything! preferably more natural remedies.

  29. so is it a good idea to start sitting on a yoga ball early on in pregnancy as well? I’m only 10 weeks now and alternate between my normal chair and my yoga ball at work (I sit for long periods all day).

    I have found articles that say it’s not beneficial at all to sit on a ball vs a chair and some that recommend it lol. I don’t know if doing it long term could effect me or the li’l bean 🙂

  30. Hi,
    I just had a look at your 7 easy exercises and your belly mapping. I had a natural birth at home with my first bub and even though he came out arm and head at the same time, we had a really great experience. I naturally did all of the exercises anyhow. I am now pregnant with my second bub and I can’t always tell exactly where s/he is, so it was a wonderful refresher to check out the exercises to make sure I feel comfortable that bub is in the right spot! Thank you.

  31. Interesting, I did most of these during my first pregnancy. My son was born after about 8 hours of labor. I am doing most of them now during my second pregnancy in addition to kettle bells to stay in shape and encourage baby number two to position correctly.

  32. I did TONS of squats when I was pregnant with my daughter and I had a posterior baby. I had no idea it was not a good idea.

    • Why are squats not a good idea?

    • Squatting is good. Alignment during squatting might have been the issue or something else unrelated to the squatting.

  33. Thank you so much for this video! Do you think squatting to build strength is safe in earlier pregnancy (before the baby would engage)? I have been doing it some, but definitely want to be sure the baby is well positioned later on!

  34. What a great video! This will be helpful to pregnant mamas that don’t have any idea about this stuff!! Pelvic rocking And squatting are the best! They worked wonders for my second pregnancy.

  35. Love the video 😉 I just had baby #2 naturally 4 weeks ago (and I will say your journey with Griffin and videos gave me a ton of encouragement and even helped me make the decision to do it!) To help prepare, I did a lot of pelvic tilts and squatted as much as I could. I definitely think it helped because I had such an easy (well, relatively) labor that lasted only about 6 hours!

  36. I think all my babies are posterior (the first two were hospital and never knew, but the last two natural home/birthing center births were). I asked my midwives if I could do exercises to turn the 5th Baby, but they said it may or may not work. That, my body knows what it is doing and may be designed for posterior births.
    Now only if I could time and tell when contractions start to hit to breathe through them because they are all in my lower back. Still so worth it!

  37. I had 3 very long births (30, 24, 22 hours). I’ll definitely be trying these exercises next time I’m pregnant. Thanks!

  38. I did a ton of exercise ball bouncing with baby #1 and had a great natural water birth experience with her. I am 25 weeks and plan on doing some more ball bouncing with my little man too!! My acupuncturist has also mentioned that she can flip a baby into the right position as well. Good luck!!!

    • I started acupuncture at 35 weeks when this baby was still frank breech. I am almost 37 weeks and today I found out the baby is head down!!!! My acupuncturist told me that most people wait too long and she can’t help them because the baby runs out of room, so the trick is to come in as early as you know there is an issue!

  39. Mama, I wonder if you are a bit nervous about another posterior baby? My son was born that way too and just wanted to say that despite the back spasms and his head getting a bit hung up on my pubic bone, our home birth was fast and without complications or interventions. So even if your second is posterior, I hope our story is a source of strength for you!

    • Bless you Kathey! Thank you for sharing your story! This makes me feel better 🙂 I’m kinda surrendered at this point. She’ll be in the position she needs to be at birth. XO

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