How to Prepare Your Body For Labor
If you’re nearing your third trimester, you’re probably making preparations for the baby’s arrival. Maybe you’re setting up the nursery or installing a car seat. But there is something else you should be preparing for: the marathon of birth. Let’s discuss how you can prepare your body for labor and child birth.
One of the best ways to prepare your body for labor is to do some light exercise everyday, or moderate exercise if you are used to that level of physical exertion. You want to maintain the same level of exercise you were doing prior to pregnancy. Read our previous blog post on Easy Exercises You Can Do During Pregnancy here for more information.
If you’re not used to exercising, try starting out with walking. Start slow and take it easy. You don’t want to overexert yourself, especially during pregnancy. You want to start building your endurance very slowly. Don’t forget to stretch first!
Pelvic Floor Exercises
The pelvic floor muscles are vital in supporting the organs in your pelvis including the bladder, bowel, and uterus. When these muscles are weak it can lead to incontinence, constipation, organ prolapse, and more unpleasant symptoms.
Pregnancy can weaken these muscles due to the weight and pressure of the baby. As your baby grows, they can put stress on the muscles. Keeping these muscles strong is important as they will assist you in labor when it comes time to push. They will also keep you from urinating accidentally. While it is common, women should not be resigned to just “dealing with it,” when they sneeze. These accidents are preventable and can be treated with pelvic floor exercises. If you can, try to do at least one of these exercises for 5 minutes a day:
- Pelvic tilts
- Kegel Exercises
If you’re not sure if you’re doing the exercises properly, consult with your midwife for guidance. The midwife can also give you a referral to a physiotherapist who specializes in pelvic floor therapy.
What you consume during your third trimester can affect your labor. It’s important to eat anti-inflammatory foods during pregnancy and drink lots of water. Try to limit or avoid foods like red meat, processed foods, and sugary drinks as these can cause inflammation.
Another way to prepare your body for labor is to eat six dates per day starting around 36-37 weeks. It is believed that eating dates can soften the cervix and lead to a shortened labor. They can also help relieve constipation because they are high in fiber.
To help tone the uterus, drink raspberry leaf tea everyday starting around 32 weeks of pregnancy with one cup per day, then gradually increasing to three cups per day by the estimated due date. Raspberry leaf tea can also be beneficial in the postpartum period as it restores tone in the uterus, helps with wound healing, and reduces bleeding.
While most of these tips are for preparing your body for labor, this tip is to help get the baby in the optimal birth position which can lead to a shorter labor. Miles Circuit is a series of positions and movements to help move the baby head-down, facing the mother’s spine. This technique can be used to flip a breech baby, or to position the baby so their head is deep in the pelvis and applying pressure to the cervix.
To read more about the Miles Circuit and how to do it, check out our previous blog post Tips and Tricks to Turning a Breech Baby.
You may also want to be mindful of how you are sitting. Try to avoid reclining when sitting. The heaviest part on a baby is their head and back, so when you recline, gravity will pull the baby’s spine to your spine, but you really want them facing your back since this is the best position for birth.
Labor and birth is not only physical, but a mental game as well. While building your physical endurance, you should also be strengthening your mental stamina.
Practice meditating and box breathing. Breathe for four seconds in, hold your breath for four seconds, and slowly exhale for four seconds. If four seconds feels too long, you can change the amount of time, just do what feels natural for you. This is a technique you can use during labor to help ride the waves of contractions.
A great way to prepare your mind for birth is by practicing total relaxation. During labor, the goal should be to relax as much as possible to allow the uterus to do all the work. Practice this by finding a cozy room with no distractions and no to low noise. You can remove any distractions from the room if needed. Lay down and get comfortable. Start by closing your eyes and releasing tension from your jaw and face. Feel the tension leaving you. Allow your tongue to fall from the roof of your mouth.
Feeling relaxed yet? We’re not quite there, stay with me. Next we will focus on the shoulders and arms. If you are feeling any tension here, let it go. Relax your hands and fingers. Continue to consciously release tension from every part of your body down to the toes until you are completely relaxed. Practice doing this so when you are in the throes of labor, you will be able to relax the rest of your body. Ask your birth partner to tap any part of your body when they notice tension, like gripping your hands.
If you would like to test your mental strength, you can try holding an ice cube in your hand for one minute. Imagine the ice cube is a contraction and you are riding the wave to its peak. Practice your breathing from the beginning to get ahead of the “contraction.” Focus your attention on relaxing your whole body (except the hand holding the ice cube). When the one minute mark has passed, evaluate how well you did. Were you able to refocus your attention to your breathing and relaxing? Now, of course holding an ice cube isn’t like the real thing, but it gives you something to test and see how well you do.
For more information on preparing for labor, consult with our midwives today!