It’s super easy to find detailed checklists for what to pack for the hospital bag, what baby needs their first months in the home, etc, but when it comes to preparing our bodies physically for labor?? Typically crickets, or generalizations like “stay fit” or “keep walking”, or “do your kegels”.
This list is actually ACTIONABLE things you can do to PHYSICALLY PREPARE your body for labor. As in, the area of the body the baby enters this world… our pelvic floor! I know this can sound scary and maybe you would like to not even think about it, but did you know that your body is AMAZING and was MEANT FOR THIS?!
I have found over the past many years that us women are often kept in the dark as to what birthing is actually like or how we can better prepare our body and mind for this amazing journey into motherhood. This is why myself and my therapists at Pinnacle actually help women prepare their bodies for birth and provide BIRTH COACHING.
To see women transform from uncertain and a bit scared of their upcoming births to empowered and feeling confident before (and feeling like an absolute badass afterwards) is PRICELESS. It all starts with spending a little less time on packing that hospital bag and searching Amazon for all the baby things to getting focused on OURSELVES. Remember that as mothers, we need to first take care of ourselves to be able to better care for our baby. And this STARTS with preparing our mind and body for our birth.
So with that said, I am giving you the 5 most important things to do to prepare your body PHYSICALLY to give birth vaginally. Plan on making the practice of stretching and breath work a nightly prenatal ritual. Especially by 25 weeks gestation.
1) Learn How To Pelvic Breathe
2) Resolve Hip/Pelvis Tension or Restrictions
3) Do A Perineum Check
4) Practice Birth Positions
5) Find Your Local Pelvic Physical Therapist
1) Learn How to Pelvic Breathe:
Connecting core and pelvic floor muscles to be able to relax and lengthen with INHALE and recoil and shorten with exhale.
Start by laying on your back with pillow under knees or in a reclined position. Place hands on your lower belly and take a slow deep inhale through your nose as you expand your belly and visualize bulging your pelvic floor. Allow your pelvic floor and abdomen to recoil as you EXHALE through your mouth slowly. Repeat this in groups of 5, 2-3 sets at a time, taking a break after each 5. Once you can feel a connection to these muscles with breathing, try to do this laying on your side and then in hands and knees posture. If you struggle to find connection here, a pelvic PT can be invaluable in helping you find connection. This connection will both help you deliver your baby as well as help you recover afterwards.
2) Resolve Hip/Pelvis Tension or Restrictions:
Check in with your inner thighs, hamstrings, hip flexors and hip muscles. Are they tense or tight? Beginning to regularly stretch these muscles nightly in the second trimester will be very helpful in your birth preparation. Not sure of what stretches to do? Check out THESE prenatal prep stretches! [insert link to this file]
3) Do a Perineum Check:
Have you ever looked at your vulva or vaginal opening with a mirror? Now is an excellent time to get to know this amazing part of you. Once you have looked, it would then be time to find out if your pelvic floor muscles are holding onto excess tension or are tender to touch. They very often have similar tension to our upper traps above our shoulders. You can insert one finger or thumb facing back towards your tailbone into your vaginal opening just about 1 inch and lightly press the side walls starting straight back and then lightly pressing to either side. No need to press forward onto your urethra. You can do this in the bath or with a tiny bit of lubricant on your finger. It is best to be in a reclined or side lying posture so that you are actually relaxing your pelvic floor muscles.
Finding out if your muscles here are painful or resistant to gentle stretch is very important in your preparation for childbirth. If you DO have soreness or notice a lot of tension, NOW is the time to consult with your pelvic PT to be formally assessed and given a plan of action to resolve this. This could greatly reduce your chance of perineal tearing.
4) Practice Birth Positions:
Try getting into the 4 most common birth positions and see how they feel, how well you can relax, and make note with your birthing partner what you may need help with.
1) Side lying with pillow or bolster under top leg
2) Hands and knees
3) Reclining (body elevated at least 45 degrees)
4) Sitting on a birth ball leaning over the side of a bed or child’s pose with upper body leaning over a birth ball
Physically and mentally going through these postures, especially in the third trimester is helpful to make note of what positions you may like better and get your partner in the loop of what the postures look like and how they might be able to support you in getting into the positions. What positions can you take a nice SLOW INHALE and RELEASE or bulge your pelvic floor muscles?
While your birth provider may have recommendations for positioning during the second stage (pushing stage) of labor, knowing what you like and feel comfortable with can be very helpful for you to be your own best advocate. In the end, listen to your body but be open to suggestions and know that no two births are alike. The position that we end up birthing our babies in is yet to be determined.
5) Find a Local Pelvic Health Therapist:
Ideally, you want to find a pelvic PT that is experienced in and passionate about helping women prepare their bodies for birth. Not all pelvic PTs are skilled at or experienced in this. Get to know her by going in for a prenatal assessment. She will assess the things on this list and be able to help you come up with a plan to address any issue that may make childbirth more difficult like tight hip muscles or disconnected core and pelvic floor muscles.
BONUS… They can also help you with back and pelvic pain, round ligament pain, belly pain, bladder leaks, and more. She will have recommendations for the best support braces, can teach you how to use supportive tape for your belly and help you learn how to connect with your pelvic floor muscles. Not only will you be MUCH better prepared for labor day, you will be WAY ahead of the game for postpartum recovery.