Giving birth is a unique and unpredictable experience for every woman. It can pose different challenges, especially if the body and the birth canal were not prepared for the experience. Taking time to prepare yourself and your body for labor not only increases your physical strength and stamina, but it also reduces stress and anxiety: you’ll feel more in control in a seemingly uncontrollable situation. You should always talk to your physician, midwife, or doula about how frequent and how strenuous your physical exercise ought to be.
Exercises to prepare the body for childbirth
There are a few trusted methods to prepare the birth canal for childbirth. Your body naturally loosens and eases up the pelvic floor muscles to help during the process. These perineal exercises further assist that natural process to prepare your body and the birth canal for an easier and less painful birth.
Doing squats during pregnancy may seem too physically strenuous, but they are great resistance exercises that provide many benefits. Start in an upright position with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. Breathe deeply and slowly squat down. Do not push yourself more than you can comfortably go. Make sure that you keep good posture and do not rush through the squats. If you feel like you’re going to lose balance, keep your fingertips lightly on a tabletop or wall.
Wide-legged Child’s Pose
This is a relaxing pose that helps ease the pelvic floor muscles and the entire abdominal area. It also calms your mind and opens up your hips, which reduces and pain or discomfort during pregnancy and childbirth. Get on all fours with your knees hip-width apart and let yourself be comfortable and relaxed. Sit back with your hips pressed onto your heels, and slowly lean forward with your arms stretched in front of you. Stretch slowly until your forehead touches the floor and let your body fully unwind. As you progress with your pregnancy, you can move your knees apart until your belly feels comfortable in this pose.
Sit on the ground and bring the soles of your feet together. Your knees will be pointing to opposite sides, and your hips will be wide open. Slightly lean forward, grasp your feet or ankles with both hands, and gently try to bring them toward you as much as possible. Hold that position and take a deep breath. Release your inner thigh muscles.
Sit on the floor and stretch your legs wide apart in a V shape. Take a deep breath and feel your feet, hips, and pelvic muscles relax. Press your pelvis toward the floor and straighten your spine. Hold the pose, take a deep breath, and release.
Perineal massage to condition the birth canal for childbirth
Your perineum is the area between the vulva and anus, which stretches during childbirth. It consists of soft tissue that can face perineal trauma or tear due to the pressure of the baby’s head, especially if not prepared properly before childbirth. Perineal massages have been shown to reduce the chances of tearing and episiotomy.
You can start around the 35th week of the pregnancy, and the massage should be performed for about 10 minutes at least 3–4 times a week. It is ideally done after a warm bath or a warm compress kept on the perineum to help you feel relaxed and at ease. Use a safe, unscented, and natural lubricant and insert your clean thumb about 1 inch into the vaginal opening. Press your thumb towards the rectum and hold for up to 2 minutes, while breathing deeply. Slowly slide your thumb from the bottom of the vagina to the side, a few times in each direction. It should not hurt. If your belly is large enough that reaching the perineum is challenging, enlist your husband or partner’s help.