Think of preparing for childbirth like training for a marathon...you wouldn’t just show up to the marathon and hope for the best!! You would train and get your body ready to handle the intense physical challenge you’re about to face. Childbirth requires a similar mindset, and here are some of the things you can do to prepare for childbirth! Read more to find out how you can prepare for childbirth.
P.S. And guess what?! Kegels are NOT the answer!
Exercise will definitely help you prepare for childbirth. Maintaining or increasing your pre-pregnancy activity levels will help you stay strong and decrease the amount of aches and pains throughout your pregnancy. Not only is it good for the mom-to-be, but it also has benefits for the baby! Babies in utero during maternal exercise can be more resilient to periods of decreased blood flow or other stressors (i.e. labor and delivery!) Always check with your trusted healthcare provider before adding or changing your exercise routine.
Get to Know Your Pelvic Floor
Your pelvic floor is one of the most important "things" to consider when thinking of how to prepare for childbirth. The pelvic floor is a very complex and impressive group of muscles that play such an important role in pregnancy and delivery. And focusing on this, will help your delivery and recovery so read on!
Changes in your pelvic floor during pregnancy
During pregnancy, one of the pelvic floor's "jobs" is to support all of the abdominal contents...so that means supporting an extra 25-35 pounds for several months. With this added demand, the pelvic floor muscles often get fatigued which leads to overactivity. Think of it as the muscles tightening up to hold on to every ounce of strength they can.
Implications for delivery
This overactivity has implications though! It can cause incontinence, pelvic pain, pubic symphysis pain, "sciatica", and painful intercourse. Definitely not what you want (or should) to deal with during pregnancy! It can also make delivery more difficult with longer pushing phases, increased risk of tearing, and potentially an increased risk of C-section. For these reasons, it is important that you take time to address the pelvic floor prior to delivery, and especially if you are having any of the above issues.
How to address your pelvic floor
One way you can do this is by having a pelvic floor assessment done during pregnancy to find out what is happening with your muscles. A pelvic floor physical therapist can then alleviate this issue and help you ensure a smoother delivery. Feel free to reach out and schedule a 30 minute free consultation with one of ours if you have more questions!
Another way you can help the pelvic floor before delivery is to perform Perineal Massage starting at 35 weeks up until you give birth. This technique is performed to improve the mobility of the superficial tissue (not the deeper pelvic floor muscles) of the area between the vaginal opening and the anus known as the perineum. This is the area that most commonly experiences trauma during vaginal delivery. Check out our video to learn the proper way of doing perineal massage.
We also recommend NOT doing kegels during the third trimester of pregnancy because this can cause those muscles to tighten up more. Ideally, the muscles need to have good mobility and elasticity to stretch during delivery and kegels will not do this. If you are planning for a C-section delivery, please know that these same changes can and are occurring with your pelvic floor muscles so you can still have common issues after delivery.
Learn How to Breath
Breathing is a key piece of a healthy pelvic floor. Learning the correct technique for pushing and breathing can decrease the risk of perineal trauma as well as developing prolapse and other pelvic floor dysfunctions.
Diaphragmatic breathing can also help relax or lengthen the pelvic floor muscles AND help calm the nervous system. This keeps muscle tone or overactivity from building up and causing pain or dysfunction in the pelvic floor. This promotes easier labor and delivery because the pelvic floor muscles will have good mobility to let the baby out rather than overactive muscles fighting against the pressure of the baby’s head.
Get your Dream Team Together
In order to achieve the pregnancy and childbirth experience that you want, it is important to have providers that you trust. Choose an OBGYN or Midwife that is willing to work with you and answer all your questions.
To make your transition from pregnancy to postpartum as painless as possible, consider adding these professionals to your team:
- Lactation Specialist
- Massage Therapist
- Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist
Here at Revitalize Physical Therapy, we have helped countless women achieve a smoother pregnancy and delivery. If you’re interested in learning more about how we can help you during your pregnancy, schedule a free 30 minute consultation with one of our Pelvic Floor Physical Therapists today!