WHEN new participants to my prenatal Pilates classes in Epping and online join me, it’s usually with one of the following in mind:
- They’ve had a difficult journey to pregnancy and want expert, trusted advice.
- They’ve got a specific back, joint, pelvis or pelvic floor issue that they want some help with.
- They’re keen to find other pregnant women in the area.
- They want to do everything they can to maximise their chances of a straightforward, intervention free birth experience AND gain the confidence to feel they have choices at that birth.
When it comes to labour and birth, there is no shortage of information out there. But with highs and lows, great labours and horrific stories all up for consumption wouldn’t it be great to have a simple guide to the best ways to prepare yourself for birth?
No matter how much you prepare, you can’t out-do nature and sometimes stuff just goes awry but I hope my guide, derived from experience and research can give you the best chance of going into labour and birth with confidence knowing you’ve done everything you can before nature takes over:
1. BE AS FIT AS YOU CAN BE
You are preparing your body for the biggest sporting challenge of your life. If your labour is long and drawn out or swift and shocking, being as fit as you can possibly be will help you and your body to cope. During Prenatal Pilates classes we spend time working on leg strength and conditioning as well as core and back strength. You’ll also benefit from staying active through walking, swimming and heart raising activities.
2. STAY HYDRATED
Before, during and after labour, keep drinking. It can be hard if you feel queasy so consider drinks you can stomach when you feel sick. Try chilled water or fizzy (if that’s your thing). Herbal teas or infusing mint or lemon in cold water can also help if you’re feeling nauseous.
3. STAY NOURISHED
Food may be the last thing on your mind and many women find their digestive systems shut down during labour, so eat what you can, when you can and nibble on high calorie, easy to digest foods. Think about the foods you can stomach when you’re poorly. Bananas, oatcakes or oaty biscuits are good go tos. You’re not in labour to diet! So you can throw away all the rule books for a while. Do avoid high fat foods though since these can make you feel more nauseous.
This may sound vague but those who train or exercise regularly tend to have a greater awareness of their body than those that don’t. Understanding your body may help you to be able to ask for the right support from your medical professional or birthing partner.
5. HELP BABY TO GET IN THE RIGHT POSITION FOR BIRTH
The easiest way a baby can exit through the birth canal is if it’s in the LOA (left occiput anterior) position. This means baby’s head is down, back is out and bottom to the left. In Prenatal Pilates we spend time working through exercises to help encourage baby’s head down and back out. Being on all fours and understanding how to position your pelvis are all elements of pregnancy Pilates classes to help with baby positioning. You could also check out this short guided stretch and movement session to help with baby positioning.
6. PERINEAL MASSAGE
Self massage or with help from a partner, perineal massage can help soften the perineum and reduce your risk of tears.
7. PELVIS MOBILITY
As baby moves through the birth canal, his head moulds as your pelvis moves. If you don’t suffer from symphisis pubis dysfunction SPD (pelvis pain) gentle pelvis mobility can help prepare your body for birth. During Prenatal Pilates classes we spend some time performing gentle pelvis opening exercise to help prepare your body for the movement and malleability required for birth.
8. BREATHE – FIND YOUR RELAXATION ZONE
Your body will labour best when calm and relaxed. Learning relaxation techniques such as those taught in hypno-birthing can help prepare you to cope with stress or anxiety and ease your labouring.
9. TRAIN YOUR PELVIC FLOOR MUSCLES LIKE AN OLYMPIAN
10. STAY ACTIVE DURING LABOUR
Research shows than an active labour is a quicker labour. So walk, squat, laugh or moan your way through it but stay positive and stay active.