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 doing some pregnancy exercises to get your body in shape.
Why Are Pregnancy Exercises So Important?
Pregnancy exercises can help open your pelvis and position your baby in the “left occiput anterior”, or LOA, position. This the optimal fetal position for childbirth. (Find out if your baby is in the correct fetal position in this post.)
When to Start Pregnancy Exercises
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 exercises.
Okay, Ready for the Pregnancy Exercises?
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 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.
Use an exercise ball
After 30 weeks, to keep your pelvis aligned and baby in an optimal position, try sitting on an exercise ball as much as you can. If you work on a computer, use this instead of your office chair. Many employers will even purchase this “chair” as an alternative.
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. (Note: Sitting in the squatting position is also an excellent pelvic floor strengthener.)
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. In fact, an old wives tale said that you could flip a posterior baby by scrubbing all your floors on your hands and knees. The thought was that gravity would pull the baby’s back forward and get him/her in the optimal position.
Of course, an exercise ball can be a pregnant mamas best friend for this exercise not only pre-labor, but also during it. Drape your arms and upper body over an exercise ball and roll around while your pelvis moves in midair. This prepares your lower body for the work of natural labor.
4. Pelvic Rocks (aka Pelvic Tilts or Cat Cow Stretch)
This simple pregnancy exercise 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 an anterior position, do 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. Once you’re in third trimester, do them 3 times a day for up to 20 minutes total each day.
This simple pregnancy exercise opens your pelvis and keeps your lower back limber. You can do these from the moment you’re pregnant until you deliver. Sit on your bottom and put the soles of your feet together. Pulse your legs up and down until you feel the stretch. You can even have your partner add resistance for a deeper stretch.
6. Forward Leaning Inversion
This powerful move helps to untwist lower uterine ligaments. Because of 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.
Kneel on the edge of a couch or bed, then slowly lower yourself to your hands on the floor and then to your forearms. Keep your elbows out and your hands close. Use a stool or a partner if you need help. Let your head hang freely and keep your chin 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. Repeat up to three times per day.
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 pregnancy 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, you should avoid sleeping on your belly, so side sleeping is your best bet.
Sleeping on your left side is most optimal, because it may increase 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 the pelvis balanced and aligned. You may also want 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.
How About YOU?
What exercises or positions did you practice before giving birth?