There’s a direct link between the amount of exercise you do during pregnancy, and how well your body copes with childbirth and recovery afterwards.
Read on to find out why it’s important that you to attend a pregnancy-specific exercise class, when you’re expecting a baby, and how this benefits you and your unborn baby too.
Hi, I’m Claire Mockridge, an Ante/Postnatal Fitness Expert who’s worked with over 1,000 pregnant and postnatal women in Nottingham.
That’s me pictured right in the blue shirt with a wonderful bunch of my ‘Bump to Babe‘ ladies – aren’t they amazing?!
Fitter mums have fitter babies and I’m here to show you how to prepare your body for labour and explain why it’s so important that you stay active:
1. MIMIC THE MOVEMENTS YOU’LL DO DURING LABOUR
Nowadays, if appropriate, pregnant women are encouraged to consider active birthing (thank goodness!).
Put simply, this is where you’re encouraged to walk around during labour and move yourself into different positions.
It helps you manage the pain, and it sort of means you’re working with gravity, rather than lying on your back on a hospital bed working against it. Does that make sense?
Exercises such as squats and lunges are a must for pregnant women.
If you don’t keep your legs and bum strong, or your hip joints and pelvic floor muscles flexible, pushing a baby out through your vagina (sorry – was that a bit TMI too soon…?) is going to be pretty hard work!
You’ll fatigue quickly, you will not have the strength, stamina or endurance in the right muscles, and your pelvic floor just won’t ‘give’ to allow baby through the birth canal.
Other active birthing positions you’ll find yourself in are if you’re going down the ‘active birthing’ route will be: on hands and knees, perhaps kneeling with your elbows against a wall, or even slumped forwards with your forearms on the bed.
In the positions mentioned there though did you notice there’s a tonne of arm work, and not so much leg work there?
So, you guessed it! You want to increase the muscular endurance in your arms as well by doing press ups and other arm toning exercises where you’re on your hands and knees too to build up the strength in your shoulders.
These will all help mimic the positions you’re likely to be in during labour, to help keep your muscles strong and prepare your body for this ordeal.
2. PILATES / CORE-BASED EXERCISE
Did you know that it’s your abdominals and pelvic floor that help push baby out through the birth canal?
If you didn’t – well, I’ve educated you there already, haven’t I?
It’s surprising how this fact isn’t discussed a lot during antenatal education classes, but it’s very much true.
Babies don’t miraculously appear, and in some cases, there’s a lot of effort required to bring a baby into the world from your core muscles and pelvic floor. It’s a combination of strength in the abs and and ‘give’ in the pelvic floor.
Putting two and two together is not difficult: it’s vital that you keep your core muscles and pelvic floor strong during pregnancy, isn’t it by doing safe abdominal exercises which in turn develop strength, endurance and flexibility too.
Strengthening your core during pregnancy lessens your chances of getting abdominal separation too which is something I have a lot of experience in rehabilitating post-birth.
The stronger and more efficient your cardiovascular system is, the better chance you have of withstanding labour for longer.
It’s called labour for a reason, ladies – and, you wouldn’t go out and run a marathon having done no training, would you?
The same goes for childbirth.
If you want to know what aerobic activity is safe throughout pregnancy click here.
Let’s have a think about this for a moment: if you do no cardiovascular training for 9 months, your fitness levels will drop FAST!
You’ll not only find it tough during labour, but when you return to exercise after birth, you’ll soon discover you’re less fit than you thought you were.
4. WATCH YOUR POSTURE / RELEASE TENSION IN TIGHT MUSCLES
You may think your posture changes significantly during pregnancy.
It does, but only if you let it by doing incorrect things like thrusting your rib cage out in front of you, arching your lower back, protruding your chin forwards and placing your pelvic/bodyweight onto the forefront of the foot as your bump gets bigger.
All of these things can lead to neck, shoulder, lower back and rib cage pain, and foot and ankle strain too. You don’t want to mess with the mechanics of your body especially during pregnancy, because it can cause all sorts of problems later on.
To explain further, because you’re allowing the front of your rib cage to lift away from the pelvis, your body is no longer able to receive oxygen into your system optimally because your breathing has been altered due to your incorrect postural habits.
If you don’t learn how to align yourself from head to toe, you will really increase your chances of suffering with abdominal separation after birth too.
Doing safe stretches and specific pregnancy exercise at this time doesn’t just help release tension in areas where you feel tight, but an open pelvis will help in labour too obviously.
Ensuring your muscles are at their optimum length and strength will keep you tension-free and will aid you during childbirth too.
5. LEARN TO BREATHE CORRECTLY
Breathing isn’t covered in great detail in a lot of antenatal education classes nowadays, but it’s something a lot of mums-to-be (and their birthing partners) want to learn. If you want me to show you how to breathe, click here for more info.
Learning to activate your diaphragm correctly and teaching your body to use the intercostal breathing muscles (which sit in between each rib) is vital for labour.
Learning the right breathing techniques for labour enables your body to guide baby out easier, develops your body’s ability to manage pain and lessens your chances of postnatal stress incontinence of the pelvic floor muscles.
I receive several emails from clients when they’ve had their babies who mention how learning how to breathe helped them immensely during childbirth.
So, there you have it!
If you’re concerned that you’re not doing enough structured for pregnancy, I can help.
Book your place at pregnancy Pilates Tuesdays 6:15pm in West Bridgford and educate yourself and come along and work out with other mums-to-be just like you!
Or come along to pregnancy fitness classes Mondays at 6pm in Lady Bay.