According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, as long as you’ve got an uncomplicated pregnancy, exercise during pregnancy is not just OK – it’s recommended!1Let’s run through exercises you can practice to strengthen the muscles you’ll be using on the big day.
Why choose exercise for normal delivery?
During labor, you’re going to be using a lot of the muscles surrounding your pelvis, hips and birth canal. Strengthening these muscles in advance could help you open up your birth canal easier during labor and make for an easier delivery.
These exercises are easy to practice at home, even if you’re not usually big on exercise, or your growing belly and body are making it harder to keep up your usual fitness routine. By getting into the habit of getting some exercise in on a daily basis, you’ll be able to control excess weight gain, as well as warding off lower back and pelvic pain. Combined with deep, slow breathing, it can also be a good way to relieve some stress and tension.
Before you start exercise for normal delivery…
Moderate exercise is a great way to control your weight and maintain good health throughout pregnancy, as well as preparing for a normal delivery. But during the first trimester, you may not feel up to it! Don’t worry – you’ll have plenty of time to build up your strength. Many pregnant moms find that their morning sickness symptoms begin to subside in the second semester, meaning that this could be a good time for you to pick up the habit. However, every pregnancy is different, so before you start on any exercise program, speak to your OB-GYN to make sure it’s a good idea for you.
Practicing exercises for normal delivery is also thought to be effective in late pregnancy, as you approach your due date after Week 37. However, moderation is very important, and it’s not a good idea to push yourself too hard. If you notice any discomforts during exercise like cramping, pain or bleeding, then stop and speak to a doctor.
Exercise for normal delivery
It’s important not to strain your belly during pregnancy exercise, and when you’re not feeling too much tightness there, there are plenty of exercises you can do comfort of your own home to build up your stamina! Let’s run through where to start.
Earlier pregnancy (until Week 20)
These exercises require you to lie flat on your back, so they’re less suitable for later pregnancy. However, you can practice them up until Week 20.2
Lie on your back with your feet on the ground and bend your knees. Keep your knees held together tightly, and move them from side to side. To keep your shoulders from lifting of the ground, place your arms by your side on the ground. Move slowly, and stop if you feel any pain or discomfort.
- Pelvic floor muscle
Lying face up, place your arms beside you with your palms on the ground. Your feet should be about shoulder-width apart. While you breathe out, squeeze your buttocks and slowly raise your hips off the floor. Then breathe in, and slowly return to the original position and relax while breathing out. Repeat this exercise a few times.
- Neck and shoulders
Start with looking up and down and side-to-side to stretch your neck, and rotate your shoulders by moving your elbows in concentric circles. These exercises don’t place strain on your stomach, so it should be quite comfortable to get started.
- Hip joints
Put place the soles of your feet together, and rest on your hands on top of your knees. Then, press down towards the floor. It’s no problem if you can’t make it all the way to ground – just take it at your own pace.
- Abdominal muscle
This exercise is great for lower back pain. Start by getting down on all fours, with your hands and knees on the ground. Take a deep breath, and as you slowly breathe out, arch your back and tilt your head down like trying to see your navel. Then, as you breath in, slowly return your back to the original position and look up towards the ceiling. Repeat this cycle a few times.
Get in the habit of exercise!
Studies have shown that moderate exercise during pregnancy can help make for an easier labor. But remember, there’s no need to stress yourself out too much about pregnancy exercise: the important thing is that you’re able to keep it up and keep it consistent. Try to think of exercise as a step you can take for your body to help you relax and feel better sooner – that’ll help make it a habit to look forward to rather than a chore!