Pregnancy exercises are an important component in your plan to stay healthy and low risk during your pregnancy. The following pregnancy exercises are important for preparing your muscles for labor and delivery. They will also help keep you as comfortable as possible during your pregnancy.
Natural Parenting Advice is geared to providing advice to working parents, parents who do not have a whole lot of fee time. For this reason, we are not going to recommend fifty exercises that you could do each day. We are going to stick to the minimum number of exercises that you need to perform. These are the exercises that helped us achieve natural childbirth.
If you have a little extra time, take a pregnancy yoga class in addition to doing your pregnancy exercises. Pregnancy yoga will help prepare your muscles and is a great place to practice abdominal breathing – which is essential for avoiding unnecessary pain during childbirth.
Time for our standard disclaimer: You should use caution and check with your healthcare provider before doing any pregnancy exercises. This is especially true if you are experiencing any complications during your pregnancy. Women who have back, neck or knee injuries should be careful to avoid any discomfort while doing pregnancy exercises
Cat stretch is the most important of the pregnancy exercises. It tones and conditions your lower back and abdominal muscles at the same time it relieves pressure on your lower back, blood vessels, and bladder.
This exercise moves only the lower body. To prevent over-arching, look down at your hands the entire time. In hands and knees position with your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips, relax your lower back and allow your pelvis to tilt forward. This will cause a slight arching in your lower back, like a horse gets when they are old.
Do not force the arch. Only allow your back to arch as much as is comfortable. The goal is to stretch, not strain.
Hold the stretch for a few seconds before bringing your back to a neutral position. Next tuck your hips under and press your back up towards the ceiling like a frightened cat. Keep looking down at your hands. Hold for a few seconds before returning to a neutral position.
We recommend that you do this exercise first thing in the morning and before relaxation practice at night at a minimum. You should also do it several times during the day, any time you notice your back is sore.
Squatting is a common position used in many cultures. It is especially beneficial when you are laboring and giving birth because it opens your pelvic outlet an additional 15%. Squatting helps your baby get into the proper position for delivery.
During the pushing phase, squatting provides natural alignment and puts pressure on the top of the uterus which helps your body during expelling contractions. This all results in a more productive second stage.
Squatting is the second most valuable of the pregnancy exercises because, in addition to helping your baby get into the proper position for birth, it helps prepare the leg muscles and the perineum.
Start by standing upright with your legs comfortably apart. Then bend your knees slightly and tuck your hips under. Tucking your hips is critical as it will relieve pressure on your lower back. Next, lean forward a little and bend your knees with your heels on the floor until your bottom comes all the way down.
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For balance it helps to hold onto something like the arm of your couch. If you can’t keep your heels on the floor, practice with a blanket rolled up under your heels or wear shoes with low heels. If you have knee trouble, place a rolled up towel behind each knee before you go down or place a low stool or blocks underneath you. Sit upright or leaning slightly forward on the lowest stool or prop that you can with your legs wide apart and your heels on the floor.
Hold the squat for as long as you can, but for one minute minimum. Build up over time and find ways to get comfortable while squatting.
During your pregnancy be sure to squat instead of leaning over to pick things up. Be sure to squat first thing in the morning and last thing at night for one minute minimum. Try to squat for an extended period of time at least once a day while reading or watching TV.
Sitting cross-legged is a healthy natural position. It is our favorite of the pregnancy exercises. If you see a group of kids sitting on the floor they will often assume a cross-legged position. This is a healthy position that encourages the uterus to move forward, increasing circulation and stretching the inner thighs. This as a great position to encourage your baby to turn head-down with his or her face towards your spinal cord - the best position for birth.
Diamond sitting is best done with something behind you to support your back. It provides all of the advantages of cross-legged sitting. It stretches your legs more effectively than cross-legged sitting and since your legs are not crossed, there is no compression on the blood vessels in your lower legs.
For cross-legged sitting: sit on the floor or a firm pillow with your legs crossed. Remember to use good posture. Don’t hold this position too long, instead lean forward or backward and stretch your legs occasionally.
For diamond sitting: sit on the floor with a couch or wall behind you. Place the soles of your feet together and bring them in as close to your body as is comfortable. Let your knees fall down towards the ground. Place pillows or another form of support under your knees so that you can relax fully. Hold this position for five minutes or longer. Over time try reducing the support under your knees so that they descend closer to the ground and provide more stretch to your inner thighs. You can also play around with how close you can get your feet to your pelvis.
Try to sit on the floor as often as possible instead of the couch or a chair throughout your pregnancy. Plan to sit in the diamond position at least once a day for five minutes at a minimum.
This exercise tones and conditions your pelvic floor. This is the only one of the pregnancy exercises that we strongly recommend you do throughout your pregnancy and for the rest of your life! Why? Poor tone in your pubococcygeus muscle (the muscle kegel exercises strengthen) causes incontinence. It is the muscle that allows you to stop the flow of urine midstream. Also called the PC Muscle, it keeps your insides from sliding out of the bottom of your pelvis while you are walking around.
If haven’t been doing your kegels, you are likely to wet your pants when coughing or sneezing. You are likely to have less sensation during intercourse. A poorly toned PC muscle can be dragged down by baby’s head during birth (instead of popping thru as designed). This sagging or distension of the pubococcygeus causes unnecessary pain, may cause premature flexion of your baby’s head, may lead to prolonged second stage (pushing) labor, and my cause damage to the muscle during childbirth. See how important it is to keep it toned?
To find your kegel muscle, try stopping your urine in mid-flow next time you go pee. To contract your kegel muscle fully, it should feel like you are pulling everything in your pelvic area up. After you find your kegel muscle you need to contract it at least 150 times a day. You need to contract it, hold it for a couple seconds and then let it go.
This is easy to fit in, no one can tell you are doing kegel exercises, even if you do them at work in the middle of a meeting! The trick is to make doing them a routine. Otherwise, you will pee in your pants while laughing at a party and realize that you haven’t done any kegels for months!
We recommend doing kegels every time you are stopped at a red light in your car. This is a double bonus! You can laugh without fear and you aren’t just wasting your precious time every time you are sitting at a red light!
While you are pregnant, listen to your body. Do pregnancy exercises to prepare your body for a natural delivery. Avoid doing anything that hurts. Your body is changing rapidly. Be aware of things to avoid while you are pregnant. Your baby is growing rapidly. Your body will tell you what it needs and what to avoid if you listen closely.
Sign up for a Bradley Method of Childbirth Bradley Method of Childbirth Preparation Class – the best education for preparing your body as well as your birthing partner. Bradley method classes also help you with labor pain management as well as with birth planning and evaluating all your options.
Take an online Childbirth Preparation Class. While we prefer in person childbirth classes, if you absolutely cannot squeeze one in then at least take an online class. Our favorite online class is StudyWomb™.
If you have a little extra time, take a prenatal yoga class in addition to doing the exercises above. You can often find these close by - check with your doctor or nearby hospital for local information.
Enjoy being pregnant. It may be uncomfortable at times - like when you are doing your pregnancy exercises - but the joys are numerous. Only you can feel your little baby moving inside of you. This is the ONLY time in your baby’s life where you have total control. Do your pregnancy exercises and make every day count and enjoy every minute. These are memories you will have for the rest of your life!
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Read Healthy Diet for Pregnancy to learn exactly what you should be eating and how many servings you should consume.
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