Prenatal Series: How to Prepare Your Body for Labor and Delivery, Part 2 — Mobility and Endurance
Welcome back! In my last post, How to Prepare Your Body for Labor and Delivery, Part 1 — Prepare the Inner Core, I talked about strengthening the inner core specifically to prepare for labor and delivery. A strong and well-functioning inner core is the foundation for safe and effective mobility and endurance training. I encourage you to read Part 1 of this series if you have not already! This post will focus on training specifically for the unique mobility and endurance demands of labor and delivery.
Labor and Birthing Positions
Depending on the type of birth and delivery team you choose, there are a variety of positions you may want to access during labor and delivery. The goal here is to practice so you will be able to access and feel comfortable moving into any of these positions.
I've listed here a few common positions for you to work on. I should mention that if you choose to have an epidural, as I did, after the epidural is administered you will have to stay in bed.
This can be really helpful during stage one labor when contractions start to get more intense. The coordination can be difficult for some women to access. Start practicing now, so you feel comfortable and have the mobility to use this position during the big event!
- Start in "quadruped" position – shoulders over hands, hips over knees.
- Tuck toes.
- Move back into an upright squat position by walking hands back.
- Repeat this a few times.
- To add hip mobility: add hip rotations.
- Start on hands and knees – shoulders over hands, hips over knees, long spine, with ears in line with shoulders.
- Keep back flat like a table, maintaining a neutral spine.
- Practice 360 breathing in this position.
Quadruped Pelvic Tilts
A forward-leaning stance like this can help get the baby into a good position by creating more space in the pelvis. Tilting the pelvis forward and back (Cat/Cow) can be a great stretch to alleviate lower back pain.
- Start by lifting the tailbone and head toward the ceiling. Inhale, feeling your sit bones open as you move your tailbone up. Focus on creating space in the front of the body and lengthening the whole spine.
- Move into the cat position by exhaling, which will help to engage the transverse abdominis. Tucking your chin while tucking your tailbone downward and rounding the spine, you will ensure the lower back gets a good stretch. The peak of the curve should be closer to the tailbone, rather than the shoulder blades, to better alleviate tension in the lower back.
As labor progresses, the contractions get longer and more frequent. Why not incorporate these intervals into your training? This practice will prepare you for both the mental and physical endurance needed for labor.
PRONatal Fitness coined the term Labor Intensive Interval Training (LIIT), they write:
"With the goal of preparing for childbirth LIIT work-rest-ratios mimic the pattern of contractions - the longer and more intense the work, the shorter the rest interval. Also, during the rest interval you choose a labor position to practice. The goal of LIIT is to be able to transition as quickly as possible into rest and recovery to be prepared for the next round of contractions."
Before incorporating interval training, make sure you are able to perform the movements in proper alignment. Always start with shorter work intervals with a longer rest period (e.g., 30 seconds of work, 60 seconds of rest,) and gradually work up to increasing the time of work intervals and shorten the rest period (e.g., 60 seconds of work, 45 seconds of rest.)
Below is a sample interval:
- Choose an exercise that gets the heart rate up, like a squat
- Choose a labor position and begin patterned breathing
Everyone has a unique experience. While I prepared my body for labor and delivery, and statistically had a better chance of not needing medical intervention, I ended up having an emergency C-section. I am glad for all the preparation I did. It empowered me to feel physically and mentally strong as I went into labor, and helped me through the first stage of labor. That preparation, I am sure, helped me recover more quickly from the surgery.
If you have any questions about self-care and fitness during pregnancy or postpartum, feel free to email me. I encourage you to practice these exercises and let me know how it goes! If you would like to practice these movements and build a community, check out our prenatal fitness classes.
Meet the Author
Kristen is a National Academy of Sports Medicine certified personal trainer, who also holds a master's degree in social work from Fordham University. She has a strong interest in the interconnectedness between physical health and mental well-being that led her to pursue a career in personal training. Kristen works to promote healthy and happy lifestyles by coaching her clients through safe and fun workouts designed to help them achieve their personal goals.
Growing up as a competitive figure skater and ice hockey player, movement and physical fitness have always played a central role in her life. Kristen is an avid snowboarder and enjoys spending time outdoors hiking and biking with her family.
“I love helping my clients reach their wellness goals by designing fitness programs that can be incorporated into a balanced lifestyle. My goal is to make working out a fun part of your routine!”
If you'd like to train with Kristen, shoot her an email at email@example.com!