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So, what kinds of movement s am I talking about? Things to do now that can benefit you later in planning for the birth of your baby?
These would be:
Body mechanics and posture
positions for labor and pushing
Exercise during pregnancy is a healthy activity. Pre-natal Yoga is excellent for stretching and learning meditation. Low impact exercises such as walking, swimming, mild biking are also good. Exercise builds stamina and endurance both of which you need during labor.
Exercise also promotes good blood circulation throughout your body and to baby as well, raises endorphin levels (that make you feel good), and improves general well-being mentally and physically.
Exercises should always be appropriate for your situation and lifestyle. For example if you never participated in marathon races, you’re not all of a sudden going to start running! But walking is a good choice. You’ll also want to check with your care provider to help you choose what’s a good exercise program match for you, your pregnancy, and health.
But first, let’s talk a little about body mechanics and posture.
When you are pregnant, you are susceptible to poor posture. Often this is the major cause for lower back ache. Go look at how you are standing in a mirror. Are your shoulders humped over? Do you feel like you have a slumping appearance when you are walking? Because of the additional weight you are carrying, your center of balance is off and your body is being pulled forward as a result. Try to readjust your posture by standing straight, with shoulders back, and buttocks in.
Posture: When sitting, avoid slumping, leaning backwards in a chair or on a couch. Best sitting posture is upright and learning forward because it takes less pressure off your back, improves circulation, and aligns your spine. Read this post on posture
Also, because of the natural physiological changes of pregnancy, you are susceptible to falls as well. Relaxin is a hormone released during pregnancy which softens ligaments in the body. That combined with your center of balance being off, be careful walking and lifting objects.
When you lift something from the floor, as you bend your knees lower your body (torso) with your feet apart shoulder width to balance your weight. Or hold on to a counter top or chair for additional support. Don’t stand and bend over to pick up an object. It’s a position that’s hard to do anyway!
During pregnancy you also retain fluid circulating throughout your body. You may experience some swelling in your ankles, hands and fingers, and a stuffy nose. This is a “side effect” of pregnancy and goes away over time after baby is born. But, if the swelling is pronounced in your face and hands, coupled with high blond pressure your doctor should be notified – this could be signs pf pre-eclampsia.
If the swelling is slight in your feet and ankles, sit down, kick your shoes off, and elevate your feet. Take the “weight” off them for a bit.
Taylor sit – Sit on the floor, knees bent and feet crossed. ( common yoga position) Modified Taylor Stretches
- Sit on floor, back straight, knees bent, soles of feet together. Place elbows on knees and gently with your elbows, press down on your knees. You should feel your inner thighs stretching. No bouncing.
- Sit on floor as above, only this time you will gently raise your arms out in front of you, straight, and palms together, and reach out in front of you, as far as you can COMFORTABLY, and slowly. Then return to your starting position. You should feel stretching in your inner thigh muscles
Kegel Exercises – These are very important to do!
- These exercises help to strengthen and tone the muscles in the perineum ( the area between your vagina and rectum), or the pelvic floor.
- These are the muscles you tighten when you feel the urge to urinate, but tighten to hold back the flow.
- These are the muscles you tighten and relax to birth baby
- Controlling these muscles, relaxing them to birth baby may decrease the risk of an Episotmy
- Do these exercises everyday, several times a day.
- Slowly tighten these muscles as you count to ten, hold to a count of ten, slowly release to a count of ten. Repeat many times throughout the day and everyday. Increase the tightening, holding, and releasing time in increments o5 (five) each time
Positions, upright is best!
Changing positions help to facilitate the birthing process by using gravity! This helps baby get into position for birth and moves baby down for birth. Positions like squatting creates more room in the pelvis for baby to engage and be born. It’s also a great position to use during pushing. Best positions are upright using gravity!
Lying on your back for long periods of time is the worst position because it compromises circulation to the baby and has the potential to turn baby towards your back in an “ociput posterior” position (baby’s back faces your spine).
You have 2 large blood vessels that run along side your spine, the Aorta and the Vena Cava. Smaller blood vessels called arteries, arterioles, and capillaries branch off these large vessels to circulate blood to your arms, legs, and organs, and to baby. When you lie on your back, the weight of baby, placenta, uterus, amniotic fluid, compress these vessels and compromises circulation to the fetus. This is why lying on your left or right side side is suggested by your doctor or midwife.
Changing positions is also good for helping baby to change its own position in the uterus.
Perhaps you are having low back discomfort due to baby’s position (not poor posture). During labor this is called true “back labor”. This is usually because baby is in the – occiput posterior position, meaning baby’s head and spine is rubbing up against your spine! Ouch! You want the baby to rotate to the anterior position where baby’s spine is facing outwards away from your spine and following the contour of your belly.
Changing positions is also good for YOU. It keeps you active by participating in your labor. Often when you are participating you feel more in control, and that you are doing something to help yourself in labor. But, keep this in mind, you will need to change positions about every 20-30 minutes if possible, or when you feel the need to – listen to your intuition. Our bodies can adapt and get use to a position allowing for discomfort sensations to creep back. At first when you change a position you may be uncomfortable (or feel better) but it will pass – you’ll know what’s best for you when the time comes.
- Slow Dance – Great for early labor. Pretend you and your partner are dancing. Put your head on his shoulders. Allow your arms to drop, and dangle. Let his arms wrap around you, losely, but firmly, below your waist. Your arms will fall over his. Now gently rock, sway, back and forth. Now, if you are really short, or he’s really tall…whatever your heights, just adapt this position to where you feel comfortable and relaxed in doing it.
- Squatting – Great position for birthing your baby. Do this several times a day. Practice this position, but don’t stay in the position for to long, it can be uncomfortable, and hard on the knees, especially when you are not use to it. Hold on to something firm with one hand and just lower your body down into a squat, with knees bent, back straight. Rise up, and repeat. Why is this a great position? It widens your pelvic outlet that baby passes during birth, and it works with gravity.
- All Fours – This is good for relieving back discomfort if you are experience “back labor”. You can also do this during the later part of your pregnancy to relieve your back od aches caused by posture. Position yourself on the floor resting on your hands and knees “all fours”. Gravity will help to move baby from the pressure felt on your lower back.
Positions for Pushing and birth
When pushing use your abdominal muscles just as you would sitting on a toilet constipated.
The following positions are used during pushing and delivery of your baby.
- Squatting – As mentioned above, but with support from your partner and/or nurse, etc. You can do this also with a “squatting bar” that most hospitals have.
- Side lying – with outer leg raised, and slightly bent at the knee
- Side lying – with your hands holding back your knees
- Semi sitting – in your bed, sitting upright, with support from partner and/or nurse, etc., with your hands holding back your knees
- Birthing Stool if one is available
“Tools” for moving
- A rocking chair! Hospitals have them and they are great! They are soothing, provide movement, distraction, and are relaxing to use. Now, add your breathing, and rock in a rhythmic manner during a contraction…and it may almost be hypnotic.
- A Birthing Ball! Not all hospitals have them, but you can purchase them from Lamaze International or purchase a Prenatal Pregnancy Kit-complete with video at Ball Dynamics
And here’s another benefit of moving during labor contractions, it helps to decrease labor pain!
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