Whether you get an epidural or not, birthing a baby takes strength and power. If you think you’re going to experience a few contractions that will just hurt a little bit, and then you’ll get an epidural and lie there until the doctor or midwife says to push… or if you think that you’ll “try” to go natural and you might “try” squatting… or even if you are planning a c-section… well, labor and delivery and recovery – no matter what type of birth you are hoping for – will take the MOST stamina and endurance ever required of you!
If you are planning an unmedicated “natural” vaginal birth, you’ll need to be physically prepared to change positions. You’ll be sitting, standing, squatting, kneeling on all fours to work with your body and baby as the rushes move your baby through your pelvis.
If you have a c-section, your abdominals will be cut through, and the stronger they are before that surgery, the faster recovery you’ll make. If you have an epidural, you still need to practice perfect pushing … and it’s NOT like pushing out a big poo!
Knowing how to push right, having the strength to be in the position that is most comfortable for you during contractions, being connected to your abdominals so your core can work for you and not against you – ALL of that is KEY to a successful strong birth! Here are three exercises you can work on NOW for a better birthing experience.
I squatted at various times during both of my natural hospital labors. It was part of my very long type-written birth plan, and the doula-trained nurses were ready for me! With my daughter, I used a squatting bar. With my son, I had one arm around my husband’s neck and one around my best friend’s neck while I squatted. My husband later said he was worried about me tearing his head completely off as I roared our son into the world.
Don’t assume you know how to squat just because you’ve watered a forest floor at some point in your life. It would be awful to come out of delivery with no tears “down there” but the start of a tear in your knee cartilage! Good squatting form is something to practice and build strength for PRIOR to pregnancy and during your pregnancy. It takes muscle, endurance and a little know-how so you don’t wreck your knees while giving birth. Click here for a FREE video from Beth called “All the little things about squats.”
- The Deep Plie Squat – Also known as the goddess pose in Yoga. Your knees and feet should both be aligned WIDE, just outside your hip line. If your knees are wider or narrower than your feet or turned a different direction than your toes, then you are asking for cartilage damage. Find and practice this BEFORE labor so your flexibility has improved enough for you to sink into it naturally when the urge comes. Again, don’t assume that getting an epidural means you won’t be doing some squats. Many friends of mine who got epidurals were still placed in squatting positions by their nurses when baby wouldn’t come down.
- Ball on Wall – lean against a ball against a wall while doing regular squats, so that your body is upright and you don’t increase your diastasis by leaning forward too much (good to lean forward during birth and while “spinning babies”…not good to lean forward a lot during exercise while pregnancy. READ: no planks, mamas!). Be sure you can see your toes peeking out from under your knees. Squeeze your glutes on the way up. Exhale to engage your core on the way down. If you feel any knee discomfort, adjust your stance.
Take a deep breath and let your belly expand with air. Now exhale and pull your navel upward toward your ribs. This gentle hollowing motion utilizes your corset muscle, formally known as your transverse abdominus (TVA). During pregnancy, your TVA gets very stretched out, as do the rest of your ab muscles, and this often leads to a natural diastasis recti.
Your diastasis will narrow, and your abs will regain healthy tension MUCH faster if you find your transverse, connect to it, use it during labor, and start working it again soon after birth. Knowing how to activate your transverse is more valuable than crunches and planks, because this is your flattening muscle that assists the uterus in pushing during labor.
Your TVA is also one of the main muscle you want to focus on while binding your belly after birth! Many moms will notice their poochy belly after baby comes and “feel fat.” Media images have brainwashed us to immediately think crunches and/or planks are the answer to a distended stomach, but that is so far from the truth.
Okay, this is one of my favorite exercises of all time. I was able to do it clear to the end of both of my pregnancies, and it’s a great alternative to the plank or crunches. Done correctly, with proper strategy, it shouldn’t worsen diastasis recti. Plus, side bridge also works your triceps, shoulders, medial glutes, obliques, and many more muscles than I wish to type right now! What’s more, the side bridge has so many variations that you’ll never get bored.
We feature many side bridge (sometimes called the side plank) styles and alternatives in several different Fit2B home exercise videos. The photo above is from one of our kids routines. Click on Join for more information about subscribing as a member for access to 200+ workouts!
You have the strength to carry a child on the inside, and you’ll have the strength to carry that child on the outside if you keep your body AND your mind strong. Your body was CREATED to give birth, to deliver life, to nurture life. You’ll know what to do in each moment of birth and beyond if you train for it strategically now.
Our resources to help you connect with your core:
- Check Your Abs For Diastasis Recti — Knowing whether any abdominal separation exists or not is key to setting up your fitness program. All of the workouts here on Fit2B are diastasis-aware, providing tummysafe strategies for managing your intra-abomdinal pressure, during pregnancy and beyond!
- Hack Fit2B for all our FREE reosurces here — Sample a workout. Visit our Youtube and Roku channels. Download a printable. We have a lot for you to explore!
- The Fit2B Prenatal Fitness Program — If you want 35-40 of our best workouts + a couple months worth of solid structure and guidance, take a peek at our pre and postnatal fitness programs that feature exercise videos tailored specifically to this season of your life. Member Note: You can find these routines in the Fit2B New Mom pathway.