Did you know that training for birth can help facilitate your labour and delivery and set you up for a smoother, faster recovery? By choosing the right preventive and restorative exercises, you can better support your body during pregnancy and birth and be less likely to suffer from the common new mom ailments of the mummy tummy and leakage when you laugh.
Giving birth is a very physical event that requires body strength, endurance and the mind. By choosing the right exercises during pregnancy, you will be better prepared for the demands of labour. Some of the best exercises for pregnant women are walking, swimming, squatting, core breathing, perineal massage and the seated row. Walking is a great low impact activity that challenges the whole body and allows time to mentally decompress during your busy day. Swimming, as well, is a full body activity that is low (or no) impact and can temporarily free you from the weight of the growing uterus and the baby. Squatting builds strength and endurance in the legs, which can help support you through labour and birth positions. Squatting also promotes an open pelvic outlet, which will create space for your baby during pregnancy and facilitate the progression of your baby through the birth canal during labour. It also builds strength and creates length in the pelvic floor. Perineal massage is a great exercise to support the pelvic floor as it helps prepare the tissues around the vaginal opening and helps you learn to relax around feelings of pressure and stretching. Exercises that strengthen the upper back are a priority. We are a rounded shoulders-slumping population and when you add pregnancy, breastfeeding and baby holding to that, we can make things even worse. The seated row is a great exercise for building strength in the upper back and encouraging the chest to open.
After the baby is born, it is critical to support your body during the healing process. The first eight weeks are crucial. Start core breathing ASAP to encourage the return of optimal function of the core system. It also promotes oxygenation of the tissues to help the pelvic floor. Core breathing, rest and breastfeeding should be the only activities for the first two weeks. The bridge is the first movement based exercise to do, it is a great glute strengthener. It is done with the core breath and it creates natural inversion, which promotes circulation and supports the internal organs in finding their place again. Gentle walking in week three is a great low impact activity to get the whole body moving again while strengthening the pelvic floor. Stretching exercises and poses that target the chest, obliques and lats (think front and sides of the body) are the best.
As you hopefully noticed, there is no mention of crunches, planks or bootcamp in either of your prenatal or postpartum exercise plan. It was not a mistake or an oversight, but completely on purpose. Crunches, planks and bootcamp will wreak havoc on your pregnant body and lead you down a path of dysfunction postpartum – avoid them like the plague!