Friday, March 25, 2011

Pregnancy Exercise for A Better Birth

Birth has been compared to running a marathon. It’s like waking up one day and realizing that you are going to have to run ten miles, like it or not. Even women in excellent physical shape will tell you it is a physical challenge like none other. If you signed up for a marathon, you would start training that day. Sitting around eating nachos is not going to get you there. Daily exercise, and a change in dietary habits are necessary to be ready.

Obviously, training for a marathon and preparing for birth are quite different.  Pregnancy exercise falls in two categories.

Aerobic exercise for stamina.
Focused exercise to target the back, belly, legs and bottom areas.

Aerobic exercise such as walking and swimming are popular choices for expectant moms.

Most women can find the time in their schedules to fit in a walk. If it’s been awhile since you have been out walking, start with ten minutes at a time, and slowly work up to doing thirty minutes a day. Wear supportive shoes, and drink plenty of water.
If you have access to a swimming pool, that is a great way to increase lung capacity and endurance. If you have not swam since becoming pregnant, start out with a kick board, or even just doing aerobic type exercises in the shallow end of the pool. One of the added benefits of being in waist deep water is how it takes the weight of the baby off your back and legs.
Try out a prenatal yoga class. In addition to the aerobic workout, you are increasing circulation and increasing flexibility and strength.
Focus on specific exercises to  tone and strengthen your back, abdominal, legs and birthing baby area.

Pelvic rocks. Assume a position where you are on your hands and knees, as if giving a child a piggy back ride. Tilt your pelvis so that you are rocking it back and forth. Your back should only slightly sag at the low point. It is similar to cat-cow in yoga. This tones the abs and strengthens the lower back muscles. Many women find this to be a great way to deal with low back ache in labor, too.
Squats. With feet shoulder distance apart, or more, hold on to your partner or heavy piece of furniture. Slowly bend your knees, dropping down into a full squat. It is important to keep your knees over your feet. Try to keep your heels on the floor, as well. When coming up, come butt first, with your hands on your knees. Be careful to not lose your balance. Squats help stretch the perineum (baby birthing area), and the muscles in your legs. This position opens the pelvis, allowing more room for the baby to move into the birth canal.
Kegel’s. This exercise can be done sitting at your desk, riding in the car, or while walking the dog. Simply squeeze the muscle that you would tighten if you were trying to “hold it” until you could get to a bathroom. Hold this muscle for a count of ten. Release, repeat. Doing kegels helps strengthen the pelvic floor, which helps during the birth. One of the many benefits is better sex. That’s a great reason alone!
These are my all time top three favorite pregnancy exercises. Be careful, using common sense when doing these or any other exercise. Do not get over heated or terribly out of breath. Stop immediately if you are dizzy, have sharp pain or have pain. These should not hurt. Consult with your health care professional before attempting these exercises.

Birthing is active. Get your body in shape for the birth-day marathon!

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