How to Do Pelvic Floor Exercises While Pregnant
7 min read | 30 May 2021
7 min read | 02 September 2019
The truth is that childbirth and labour are taxing on both your mind and body, which can get overwhelming very quickly. Rest assured you’re not alone. Having worries about the pain, getting to the hospital on time and ensuring your birth plan goes to schedule are common thoughts most people have. To help make the labour process as smooth and stress-free as possible, we spoke with MAMA Midwife, Kelly Langford, on to prepare your body for birth.
Kelly says, “Your body is preparing for labour from the moment it is pregnant, without you even being aware!”
From exercise to controlled breathing, here are some of our top tips for getting you ready for childbirth, labour and everything else that comes with it during the journey.
Prenatal yoga classes often include some discussion of labour and birth, and how to prepare your body and mind for this big event. Yoga itself focuses on softening and strengthening different areas of your body, which is extremely beneficial for labour. Breathing techniques that are practiced in yoga can also be applied to labour, and assist your body to prepare for birth.
Perineal massage has been found to decrease the chance of tearing from a normal vaginal delivery. The intention of perineal massage is not only to soften the perineum (the tissue between the vagina and anus), but to release any muscles that are holding tension in the area. This in turn allows the soft tissue to stretch, and reduces the chance of tearing. There are some great YouTube tutorials on how to perform perineal massage on yourself, or have your partner do it.
Your pelvic floor is put under a significant amount of additional stress in the pregnancy, and to varying degrees depending on the type of birth you have. It is important that it functions well to avoid incontinence and prolapse, and a women’s health physiotherapist is the expert to guide you.
Have a pelvic floor assessment with a women’s health physiotherapist, who can assess how your pelvic floor is coping with pregnancy, and guide you on how to strengthen it for the future.
As long as your body permits it (not recommended in certain situations like pelvic instability), keeping active throughout pregnancy helps your body prepare for labour. Getting out and about still, being active around the house doing low-stress exercises like cooking, gardening or walking the dog will all help you in the long-run, especially as you get closer to your due date.
Swimming is a low-impact exercise great for soon-to-be-mums. During pregnancy, swimming has the added benefit of allowing your tummy to hang forwards and assisting in optimal positioning of your baby. It’s a great alternative to walking while still keeping you fit. Swimming can also help with breath control and strengthening your pelvis muscles.
In particular during the third trimester, sleep becomes incredibly important in helping your body prepare for labour. Sleep allows for your muscles to strengthen and recover, while also giving you some much-needed peace and quiet. If you’ve had a big day preparing for baby, there is no harm in going to bed early. Similarly, napping is a great way to get some extra rest in during the day when you start to get tired.
While it’s fine to indulge in pregnancy cravings from time to time, it’s best to ensure you’re sticking to a healthy diet for the majority of your meals. Having a balanced diet of veggies, whole grains, fish, meats, and healthy fats (like nuts) will help give your body the energy it needs to recover from pregnancy exercises and give your little one the nutrients they need.
As much as labour is a physical activity, being mentally prepared for what is coming next is equally as important. Mindfulness techniques such as breathing exercises may help keep you focused, while meditation and visualisation can assist in easing fear and anxiety, all of which are great tools to have in your back pocket for the big day. You may even consider techniques such as hypnobirthing as a way of mentally preparing for labour.
Whatever techniques you choose, these will accompany your prenatal exercises in getting your body ready for childbirth and labour.
From prenatal yoga to ensuring you get a good night’s rest, there are many techniques, exercises and mindfulness tools you can do to get ready for labour. However, before you start any new exercise routine while pregnant, it’s best to consult your GP, physio or midwife. They may also recommend speaking with an exercise physiologist or personal trainer for more specific recommendations based on your needs and condition.
This article has been written alongside Kelly Langford, a registered MAMA midwife. For more information about your particular needs, always speak to your midwife or GP before starting an exercise routine. For more information about MAMA midwives, visit www.midwivesandmothers.com.au.
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