The perks of exercising include, staying fit, building muscles, building endurance, energy and lest we forget to mention, improved circulation. These also apply during pregnancy. Studies show that women who exercise and stay in shape during their pregnancy, tend to have shorter labours and less medical intervention. Not only does exercising prepare your body for a quicker and easier delivery, but it also helps you to return to your pre-baby weight sooner.
So what are the best exercises for an easier delivery?
Squats are good for strengthening your legs which is a boost, especially during the second trimester. As you start to get heavy this exercise will work to improve posture, build resistance, and provide motion to your glutes, hips, pelvic floor muscles, thighs, and legs. It is during this time when you need strong pelvic muscles. Performing squats or deep squats will strengthen these muscles as well as stretch the perineum, which reduces the risk of tearing and other issues postpartum.
To perform a squat exercise.
- Stand with feet shoulder-width apart
- Stretch your arms to the front, parallel to the floor
- With your back straight and maintaining an upright posture, lower down until you come to a sitting position. Your weight should be placed on your heels and your knees should be behind your toes.
- Return to the initial position while squeezing your glutes.
- Perform a set of recommended repetitions for maximum benefits.
Deep squats are performed the same way, the exception being you start with legs wider than shoulder-width apart and the squat is deep. There are also other alternatives, like sumo squats, chair squats and squats against the wall. What to note is that you should always consult with your doctor on the type of exercise to perform and sets as the terms and conditions vary for different people.
2. Perineal bulges
You may have heard of perennial massages, which are more therapeutic than exercise. Perennial bulges, on the other hand, place pressure on your pelvic floor muscles and train you to push without holding your breath.
This exercise is usually done in the last few weeks towards delivery and it is performed in the delivery positions.
3. Child pose
Yoga poses have proven to be beneficial in relieving different ailments as well as discomforts and aches experienced in different parts of the body. While poses like deep twists, planks and downward-facing dogs may be unsafe during pregnancy, child pose and the quadruple cat-cow (as discussed in the next point) are beneficial. The child’s pose is good for restoring your posture, stretching your muscles, easing discomfort and lengthening the pelvic floor muscles.
To perform the child’s pose
- Placing a mat on the floor, lower down and sit on your heels. Spread your knees wide.
- Lean forward gently and stretch your arms outwards in front of you. Rest your elbows on the floor and use your hands to support your head. You may place a block underneath your forehead which allows more room for your belly/abdomen
- Breathe into your groin and you can extend your fingers/palm towards the top of the mat for an extra stretch. Hold the pose for five to seven breaths.
4. Quadruple cow cat
The cow cat is a good pose for relieving backache, lower back pain and general discomfort. This exercise can be done for 30-60 seconds at any stage during your pregnancy. To perform it, get on all fours. Inhale and gently arch your back downward and move the pelvis backwards. Look up at the sky. After a deep inhales, exhale releasing the pelvic floor forward and rounding your back as you tuck your chin towards your chest.
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5. Perineal massage
As the ultimate requirement, that will prepare your body for delivery, consider adding a perennial massage to your list of exercises. A perineal massage softens and lengthens the perineum tissues which relaxes the muscles and helps avoid an episiotomy, tearing or bruising. This makes recovery a bit faster and it keeps the pelvic muscles intact, preventing issues such as incontinence.
A perineal massage can be done during the final weeks (35 weeks) of your pregnancy, once a day for 10 minutes. Use natural oils such as coconut, olive or grapeseed oil.
- After cleaning your hands, (short nails are preferred), find a comfortable position and sit or lean.
- Apply the natural oil or personal lubricant like K-Y jelly onto your hands. Open your legs and insert your thumbs 1 to 1/2 inches inside your vagina.
- Press your thumbs downwards towards your rectum and to the sides making sure that you don’t press too hard. You should be able to feel a stinging sensation if you’re pressing right.
- While breathing deeply and focussing on relaxing the muscles, hold the pressure for two minutes until the area becomes numb.
- You should do this for a minimum of 5 minutes and a maximum 10 minutes a day.
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Child delivery is taxing on your body and there’s no guarantee of an easier delivery. However, training your body is one way you can prepare it for the task ahead. Since recommendations might vary, it is wise to speak to your doctor before beginning any exercise routine during your pregnancy. Nevertheless, you do not need a doctor’s opinion when it comes to breathing exercises, which is an equally essential exercise, that prepares you for an easier delivery.
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